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Recent articles in Advertising Age may have left the impression that the advertising industry is completely at odds with the recent proposals of Philip Morris USA. and UST [U.S. Tobacco Co.] regarding the sale of tobacco products. Perhaps the desire to publicize a good fight has obscured very real common ground. Yes, we believe that Philip Morris/UST tobacco ads restrictions go too far, but this should not stop action on the rest of their positive agenda.

Indeed, there is much more about the proposal that we support. Perhaps most importantly, Philip Morris and UST have responded to the president by proposing to make real and immediate changes to eliminate tobacco use by children.

The current posture of the Clinton administration toward tobacco advertising regulation is fatally flawed. Even its most ardent supporters realize it will take years for it to produce any results. The president, through the Food & Drug Administration, has proposed overly broad advertising restrictions which we have challenged in court and which recent decisions by the Supreme Court signal will be held to be unconstitutional, sending the FDA back to the drawing board.

On the other hand, broad aspects of the Philip Morris/UST proposal focus on tobacco sales restrictions that will significantly reduce tobacco use by minors without infringing upon the First Amendment. These proposals, which deserve careful consideration, include creation of a federal minimum age for purchase, requirements for face-to-face transactions to promote proof of age verification, and proposals to insure that retailers understand and enforce the laws.

Also, UST and Philip Morris have made clear that the Federal Trade Commission, not the FDA, has and should continue to have responsibility over the regulation of tobacco advertising. This is a position that Congress has long maintained and deserves strong support.

We wish that all the parties could come together and immediately agree on policy changes that would eliminate tobacco use by children without violating the constitutional protection of commercial free speech. Health groups, the Clinton administration, the tobacco industry and the advertising industry should all come together and do something positive to protect our kids. America's children demand that we try.

Daniel Jaffe

Exec VP, Association of National Advertisers

Harold Shoup

Exec VP, American Association of Advertising Agencies

Jeffry Perlman

Senior VP, American Advertising Federation

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