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Philip Morris USA's sampling programs will take much of the marketing hit of the tobacco company's new determination to combat youth smoking.

How much of an effect that has remains to be seen for Philip Morris, other tobacco marketers, and the direct marketing and promotions industries.

While Philip Morris said it will no longer send out 4 million to 5 million packs of cigarettes by mail nor will it give away 15 million to 20 million at events annually, the company said it will still distribute coupons for free packs and won't pull back on event marketing.

"Sending cigarettes was an effective tool, but sending cigarettes as part of mailing was a very small part of our direct marketing programs," said Karen Daragan, manager of media affairs.

She said the event sponsorship activities "create awareness" that can't be duplicated in other ways.

Philip Morris, like its competitors, had already replaced pack mailings with free coupons in more than a dozen states that ban mailing of cigarette packs, but it remains unclear whether the decision would put Philip Morris at any competitive disadvantage in the rest of the country.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said last week it was still studying its rival's move and had made no decision on similar action.

Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., while praising the overall intent of Philip Morris' plan, also said it was studying the individual elements.

Philip Morris announced its intentions June 27, launching what it called Action Against Access in a news conference by President-CEO James J. Morgan.

The program, which was publicized in several days of ads from Young & Rubicam, New York, calls for all packaging to carry a new "underage sale prohibited" and for Philip Morris to support state legislation aimed at preventing minors from using cigarette vending machines, punishing retailers that sell cigarettes to underage smokers and posting minimum age signs.

Several other tobacco makers, notably RJR, have similar programs.

In some new twists, Philip Morris said it would also support legislation to require retailers to keep cigarette racks under control of a sales clerk or within a clerk's line of sight.

In addition, the company said it would cut off benefits of its merchandising programs like the Marlboro Country Store to stores convicted of selling cigarettes to minors.

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