SF Chronicle

San Francisco — California's two biggest outdoor
advertising firms have agreed to post free anti-smoking
billboards throughout the state to settle claims they ran
cigarette ads too close to schools.

Eller Media Co. and Outdoor Systems Advertising, billboard companies
headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., agreed to donate 500 "billboard months'' of
advertising space to carry anti-smoking
messages targeted at young people.

Each company will carry free anti-smoking
billboards provided by the state's Tobacco Control program on
signs throughout California.
A billboard month is a display of one sign in one location for one month.

"This is fantastic,'' said Michael Green, executive director of the Center
for Environmental Health, a San Francisco-based advocacy group. "This is a
perfect way to help protect the public from being addicted at a young age to a

The group filed a civil lawsuit in March against the
companies after a Chronicle story disclosed that tobacco billboards
remained standing in San Francisco
months after a state law banned them within 1,000 feet of a school or
playground, a prohibited zone that included most real estate in the city. The
suit charged that the companies flouted the state statute.

In May, the two firms volunteered to pull down all their
tobacco advertisements in San
Francisco, regardless of how far they might be from
schools or playgrounds, and promised to be fully compliant with
the law statewide by July 1.

"We're pleased to have this matter resolved,'' said George Broder, a
spokesman for the Oakland
office of Eller Media. He said the company does not admit to any wrongdoing.
The state billboard restrictions took effect January 1.

Two-thirds of the billboards included
in the settlement will be the large, "30-sheet'' signs typically seen from
major highways. The agreement also includes smaller billboards
and signs posted on bus shelters.


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