Jun. 5 2000
Washington, DC — Philip Morris' announcement that it is withdrawing its cigarette advertising from magazines with high youth readership will be a positive step if it represents fundamental and permanent change and is followed by similar action by the other tobacco companies. Magazine advertising is one important way in which tobacco companies target America's children. However, the devil, as always, will be in the details, especially given Philip Morris' long history of saying one thing and doing another. It is critical that Philip Morris continue to utilize independent, respected firms such as Simmons and Mediamark to measure youth readership; that it base its policy on youth readership, not subscribership; and that it not shift its advertising and marketing dollars to other venues that reach kids.
Philip Morris' announcement also shows once again that the tobacco companies will change only when threatened with significant legal sanctions and only when caught red-handed. Philip Morris acted only after the state attorneys general initiated an enforcement action following the release of several recent studies showing that the tobacco companies have significantly increased advertising in youth-oriented magazines since signing the November 1998 settlement with the states.
We will be watching Philip Morris closely to ensure that its words are followed by actions. Philip Morris has proven to be the master of grand announcements that turned out to be empty public relations gestures. In October 1999, Philip Morris posted on its web site a statement seemingly accepting the medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking is addictive and causes lung cancer and other diseases. After the statement garnered significant publicity, Philip Morris executives and attorneys have repeatedly stated that the company does not accept this consensus. Asked in a deposition in the Florida Engle trial if the company agreed with the evidence that its products cause serious disease, Philip Morris President and CEO Michael Szymanczyk stated, "We have not."
We hope that today's announcement is different and represents fundamental change that will protect America's children from tobacco addiction and disease.