Magazines smolder over MFDA cigarette moves

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More than 40 of the nation's largest magazines are on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's hit list as the agency aims to curb cigarette advertising to youths.

Under the new regulations, millions of marketing dollars could be shifted as tobacco companies comply with rules forcing advertisements to be only in b&w text form if the magazines are deemed to have a significant number of readers under 18 years of age.

Consumer magazines landed $323.7 million in advertising revenue from tobacco companies in 1995, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Even though most industry experts say discounting reduced the "real revenue" figure by some 50%, the amount in quesition is still substantial.

"Obviously, I'm concerned," said one top executive at Time Inc., one of the biggest recipients of tobacco ad dollars and whose four major titles--Sports Illustrated, Time, People and Entertainment Weekly--all made the FDA list. "I don't have another category that can replace tobacco advertising," he added.


Between Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated, People, Time and Entertainment Weekly, PIB estimates placed the company's cigarette ad revenue in 1995 at $88.9 million--or roughly 27.5% of all cigarette advertising placed in consumer magazines.

One publisher, who asked not to be identified, believed these rules have snuffed out magazine advertising by tobacco companies.

"The cigarette companies will never admit it, but they're trying to reach the young readers," he said. "If they can't advertise to the young, maybe they won't advertise at all."

If those dollars aren't forever lost to magazines, titles not named in the FDA list could benefit.

"It seems likely . . . that tobacco companies will both increase the frequency of advertising in 'adult' magazines that already carry tobacco advertisements and find suitable 'adult' magazines to replace many of the other magazines," the FDA said in its proposal.


Other titles singled out by the FDA, which used two-year readership data from Mediamark Research Inc. and Simmons Market Research Bureau, include TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Field & Stream, Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Popular Science and The Sporting News, among others.

To create that lineup, the FDA used two thresholds: magazines that have 15% or more of their readership under the age of 18 and magazines that have at least 2 million readers under the age of 18, even if that raw number constitutes less than 15% of the total audience.


Six of the seven women's service books are on the list. Only Good Housekeeping is left off because that Hearst title has had a self-imposed ban on cigarette advertising for 40 years.

Some publishers, like Kent Brownridge, senior VP at Rolling Stone publisher Wenner Media, called the proposed regulations politically motivated. "It's a lot of political hate in an election year," he said.

But there's some evidence the list already could be having far-reaching consequences.

Some industry observers, for example, are wondering if the regulations could negatively impact the final price tag for Petersen Publishing, whose Sport, Hod Rod and Motor Trend made the list.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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