"It could embolden [advertising critics] to try it again," said Jeff Pearlman, senior VP-government affairs of the American Advertising Federation, in a sentiment echoed by other groups.
Association of National Advertisers Exec VP Dan Jaffe noted that in recent years the same kind of outdoor advertising restrictions Philip Morris said it would agree to have been sought by alcohol advertising critics.
Other critics have sought restrictions on fast-food, airline and gambling advertising.
"The list goes on and on," he said. "While tobacco and alcohol often get the spotlight as the first targets of opportunity, our view is that if you start to give in and cut deals that are not in line with the First Amendment, it erodes the protections for everyone."
OPPOSING ANY COMPROMISE
Though typically trade associations approve of self-regulation in place of government fiat, in this case they remain adamantly opposed to any compromise by tobacco companies on the issue of commercial free speech-particularly through federal legislation.
"They have the right to waive their own constitutional rights, but when you write that into law, it's no longer voluntary," Mr. Pearlman said.
Adding to the ad associations' opposition is Philip Morris' timing. The company announced the proposal two days after the Supreme Court made it much more difficult to impose advertising restrictions on true, non-misleading speech in the 44 Liquormart case.
Further, within days of Philip Morris' announcement, the court signaled that broad outdoor bans on particular kinds of advertising wouldn't be supported.
As it happens, Philip Morris may not have much chance of getting its proposal taken seriously anyway this year.
The plan was unveiled fairly late in the legislative session during an election year and announced with great public fanfare apparently before the company lined up a single legislative sponsor. Public identification of the proposal as a Philip Morris measure could also hurt in lining up support.
The chances weren't helped by the lack of other tobacco industry support. Aside from U.S. Tobacco Co., no Philip Morris rivals have yet signed on.