Industry to Kennedy: Restrict Us Not

Senators Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. and John Cornyn, R-Texas, along with 29 sponsors from both sides of the aisle, recently introduced a bill designed to significantly restrict tobacco advertising–particularly to minors–by giving the FDA authority over the product’s marketing.
In the House, Reps. Henry Waxman D-Calif., and Tom Davis, R-Va., introduced a similar measure with nearly 100 co-sponsors, and that number is expected to grow.
Ad Age looks at the ad industry’s repsonse.

Ad groups are pinning the “unconstitutional” label on Sen. Edward Kennedy’s bid to let the Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco and to impose a decade-old plan that imposes draconian marketing curbs on tobacco advertising.
“While the government has a legitimate interest in fighting the use of tobacco products by minors, the FDA’s proposed regulations sweep far too broadly and result in massive censorship of truthful speech aimed at adults,” the Association of National Advertisers, the American Advertising Federation and American Association of Advertising Agencies said in the letter.

According to Forbes, Kennedy said, “FDA action can play a major role in breaking the gruesome cycle that seduces millions of teenagers into a lifetime of addiction and premature death.”
An earlier Forbes piece from Feb. 19 explains the twisted logic behind Phillip Morris’ support for the bill.

Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of Altria Group and the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturer, with a 50.3% market share, roundly supports the bill. The company says FDA regulation would create a national tobacco policy, providing clear standards for the industry.
But just about everyone else in the industry is worried that the bill would diminish tobacco companies’ current advertising clout, putting them at a disadvantage compared with Philip Morris, which owns the ubiquitous Marlboro brand.

The thinking is diminished advertising allows Marlboro to “lock in” its market share. In fact, RJ Reynold’s has refered to the bill as “The Marlboro Monopoly Act.”
[FULL DISCLOSURE: I work on RJR’s Camel brand at BFG Communications. Therefore, I have more than a passing interest in this legal development.]

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About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.