FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2019WASHINGTON, D.C. – Breathe DC announced today that it reached a settlement agreement in a lawsuit against Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company (“Santa Fe”) and its parent company on mutually acceptable terms and without admission of fault or finding of liability by either party.
In 2016, Breathe DC, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to safeguarding the public from the dangers of smoking and other threats to lung health, filed a lawsuit to stop Santa Fe from marketing its “Natural American Spirit” brand cigarettes using terms like “Natural,” “Additive-Free,” and “100% Additive-Free.” Breathe DC alleged that these terms imply that the cigarettes are substantially healthier or less harmful than other cigarettes.
Breathe DC filed its lawsuit on behalf of the District of Columbia public and sought a court order enjoining Santa Fe from marketing its “Natural American Spirit” cigarettes using the terms “Natural,” “Additive-Free,” and “100% Additive-Free,” and requiring Santa Fe to update its disclaimer that “No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.”
Due in part to Breathe DC’s filing and aggressive efforts to pursue the lawsuit, Santa Fe entered into a written agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on January 19, 2017, resulting in Santa Fe removing the phrases “Natural” and “Additive Free” from all “Natural American Spirit” labels, labeling, advertising, and promotional materials (provided that Santa Fe may retain use of the term “Natural” in the brand name and trademarks).
Pursuant to guidance from the FTC, Santa Fe has since also removed the disclaimer that Breathe DC had challenged, replacing it with a new disclaimer stating that “Natural American Spirit cigarettes are not safer than other cigarettes.”
“I am encouraged by the progress that this settlement represents and appreciate Santa Fe’s engaging with Breathe DC to discuss Breathe DC’s issues of concern,” said Rolando Andrewn, president and CEO of Breathe DC.
Breathe DC was represented by Richman Law Group and Foley Hoag LLP.
Breathe DC was founded in 2010 to safeguard the lung health of Washington, D.C.-area residents; and its mission includes advocating for stronger laws and policies to safeguard healthy air and protect lungs from smoke, air pollution and allergens. The organization’s major initiatives focus on reducing smoking rates and addressing the asthma burden in communities affected by health disparities. For more information, visit www.breathedc.org.