Philip Morris to Drop Teen Magazine Ads
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Philip Morris Cos. Inc., which has been under pressure by state attorneys general for advertising to teens, said on Monday it plans to drop advertising from magazines in which 15 percent of its readers are under the age of 18.
The company said it also will drop ads from any magazine that is read by more than 2 million persons who are under 18. Philip Morris said it used existing readership survey evidence to decide which magazine ads to suspend.
The company said these measurements will result in the suspension of advertising in 40 to 50 magazines. Because Philip Morris has a commitment to these publications, the ads will not be completely suspended until September.
State attorneys general, who have been investigating advertising by the tobacco industry, praised Philip Morris' move and said they hoped other cigarette makers would do the same. Christine Gregoire, president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), said the group would continue its probe of other companies that do not make advertising changes.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Winston and Camel brand cigarettes, said it is not changing its magazine advertising policy, which it describes as meeting the terms of a 1998 settlement that restricted tobacco advertising.
R.J. Reynolds said it advertises in magazines with at least two-thirds of the readership being 18 or older and that editorial content and advertising of those magazines are aimed at adults and that changes in the ``profile of tobacco advertising'' will have no bearing on youth smoking.
In April, Philip Morris removed cigarette ads from the back covers of publications and last month it decided to drop ads in Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. The company released a list of other suspended publications on Monday that include Better Homes and Gardens, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, Field & Stream, Glamour, Hot Rod, National Enquirer, Newsweek, People, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, TV Guide and Vogue.
Philip Morris' move to reduce advertising is a result of a historic $246 billion settlement reached with state attorneys general in 1998 to resolve suits aimed at recouping Medicaid costs spent on sick smokers.
As part of the agreement, the tobacco industry agreed to stop certain types of outdoor advertising including on billboards and in stadiums and shopping malls. While there was no specific language about magazines, the industry vowed that it would not take any action to target youths in the sale of cigarettes.
Gregoire, the Washington State attorney general and a key negotiator of the landmark settlement, told Reuters last month that a NAAG committee had been investigating tobacco companies for several months due to complaints about the nature of their magazine ads and statistics showing an increase in those ads.
Philip Morris denies that it was among those companies under investigation but said it was part of ongoing talks with the attorneys general.
Gregoire said the attorneys general will continue discussions with Philip Morris about how youth readership is measured and the reliability of those measurements. She has previously alleged that the tobacco industry denied it was advertising to teens by basing magazine readership on subscriptions, not newsstand sales or on how many teens read magazines purchased by adults.
``We are concerned about readers, not necessarily subscribers, and this is a major step toward reducing the exposure of our kids to the hard sell of tobacco,'' she said.
Philip Morris said it has proposed to the attorneys general that an independent and accurate third-party method for determining youth readership be established and be used as a standard for all tobacco product advertising.
``Philip Morris USA believes that applying this extra rigor to publications with reportedly higher youth reach and readership is consistent with its commitment to lower the profile of tobacco advertising and its mission to responsibly market its products only to adults,'' the company said.
Last month health groups released two studies that showed tobacco companies have greatly increased the amount of advertising spending in magazines read by children.
One study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that tobacco advertising in magazines with at least 15 percent of readers aged 12 to 17 had increased by a third to nearly $120 million in 1999 -- after the settlement was reached. The Massachusetts study found that while tobacco companies did spend less money on billboard advertising, they redirected the money to magazines.
``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,'' said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.