Philip Morris' decision last week to pull ads from 42 magazines with more than 2 million readers under 18 years of age raises concerns for other advertisers of products considered harmful.
The company's move comes after the state attorneys general launched an investigation of Big Tobacco to determine if the industry violated its legal agreement with the states by marketing to youth.
PM maintained that it was never aware of any investigation and decided to pull the ads from magazines, such as Better Homes & Gardens, Newsweek and Vogue, voluntarily.
"We are not doing things because we have to," said Tom Ryan, a PM representative. "This is our effort to be responsive and responsible."
With this precedent established, some ad insiders said a similar case could be made against other products considered dangerous, such as alcohol and junk food. "Anyone advertising something considered harmful could be at risk," one source said.
PM was under no legal pressure to pull ads from magazines with youth readerships of more than 15 percent. This rule was first proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, but the Supreme Court ruled that the FDA had no jurisdiction over tobacco.
One beer-industry source has adopted a wait-and-see approach: "It's a little early to push the panic button."
Other tobacco companies will not follow suit. R.J. Reynolds advertises in magazines where two-thirds of the readership are 18 or older.
"I think the 15-percent rule is capricious and arbitrary," said RJR representative Jan Smith.
By Wendy Melillo, June 12, 2000 Adweek.com
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