Split issues

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In an effort to regain lost tobacco-ad dollars, some major publishers have offered cigarette marketers the ability to place ads in targeted issues going only to subscribers verified as being over 21 years old.

Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. said last week Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and Wenner Media's Rolling Stone were allowing B&W to target ads to adults only. B&W will pay a premium for the breakout, roughly equivalent to advertising in the magazine's whole run, though it expects its ads will appear only in half the copies.

For January through July, tobacco-ad pages industrywide declined 45.8% to 1,778.56, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Kent Brownridge, Wenner's general manager, said the first segmented issue of Rolling Stone is the Sept. 27 issue, on sale Sept. 7. "I hate it. It's a nightmare," he said, detailing the administrative hassles of creating the list. Each week Brown & Williamson advertises, Rolling Stone's subscriber list will be run through a database. Only subscribers who are confirmed as 21 or over via public records will be sent copies with the tobacco ads.

Entertainment Weekly executives said its first split issue is its Aug. 17 issue. Sports Illustrated's first will be its Aug. 27 issue, on newsstands Aug. 22.

Although the Food and Drug Administration's proposed oversight of tobacco was rejected last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, Philip Morris Cos. and B&W have voluntarily adopted one part of the FDA's proposed guideline: to effectively eliminate tobacco ads in publications with more than 15% of the readership under 18 (or at least 2 million readers under 18).

Philip Morris has pulled out of more than 50 publications and has no plans to re-enter any of those titles, said Brendan McCormick, manager of media affairs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. limited its advertising to titles that have 75% or more adult readers, or, for publications without detailed readership data, a median age of 23. That standard led Reynolds to pull out of six magazines, including Miller Publishing's Spin and Vibe. B&W also pulled its cigarette ads out of more than a dozen magazines, including the three it is now using for adult-targeted ads.

Critics suggest targeting by a subscriber's age doesn't go far enough to limit tobacco advertising.

"Basing a decision on tobacco advertising on subscriptions is nothing but a charade," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Parents subscribe. Kids read. ... Advertising should make decisions based on readership, not subscriptions."

This new approach could put pressure on other industries to ask for similar targeting.

"If they did it for tobacco, where the purchase age is 18, they should certainly think about it for alcohol; otherwise it's blatant hypocrisy," said George Hacker, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's alcohol-policies project.

Spokesmen for Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly said the publications were acting at B&W's request and had no plans to offer the editions to other marketers.

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