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MOSCOW -- The Russian office of Philip Morris International is no longer using teenage girls and boys to hand out cigarettes and promotional trinkets on the streets of Moscow. Instead, the tobacco marketer's agencies will only use people older than age 35.

The change comes after the Anti-Monopoly Ministry tightened regulation of alcohol and tobacco advertising. The ministry, which has also cracked down on outdoor advertising of spirits, recently sent letters to major tobacco companies and to ad agencies warning that images of people promoting tobacco and alcohol must be at least 35.

While British-American Tobacco and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. stopped street promotions altogether, Philip Morris has started to field older models.

Two Philip Morris local agencies -- Coral Promotion and Promotion-Service -- hired some 200 people, mainly housewives, to hand out Marlboros and the marketer's local economy brand, Optima.

The over 35s, or what Russians deemed the "middle aged," do a better job than students, says Coral Promotion Director General Anna Vasilieva.

After several weeks of promoting Optima, Ms. Vasilieva says middle-aged women tend to be better promoters than teenagers.

"They have old Soviet traits, which sometimes are not that bad at all -- discipline and the ability to persuade people," Ms. Vasilieva says.

The new team has been promoting Optima, which retails for 15 cents a pack, near major Moscow factories.

Phillip Morris spokeswoman Marina Diachenko says the company constantly reviews its marketing practices.

"Regarding the age of hostesses, I can tell only that we are continually developing our company policy and are now in accordance with ongoing developments in applicable legislation." -- Sergey Rybak

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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