Earlier this year, Altria Group Inc. (the parent company of cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA) announced that it had purchased for $10 million the naming rights for Richmond’s Landmark Theater.  Some industry observers wondered how this was possible, when regulations promulgated by the Food & Drug Administration pursuant to the Tobacco Control Act generally prohibit cigarette and smokeless tobacco manufacturers from sponsoring athletic, musical, artistic, or other social or cultural events. 

However, an exemption in this provision allows a manufacturer to sponsor such events in the manufacturer’s corporate name, so long as the corporate name does not include any tobacco brand name, and so long as the corporate name and corporation were registered and in use in the United States as of January 1, 1995.  Thus, this exemption would not apply to newer companies, nor would it apply to tobacco manufacturers whose corporate name is the same as one of its tobacco brands.

It is not clear why such an exemption would apply only to established companies, as opposed to newer businesses, unless the goal was to impede competition, which is what many opponents of the Tobacco Control Act asserted when the law was passed in 2009.

For questions and/or comments, please contact Bryan Haynes, at 804.697.1420 or by email.