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SMOKING: Unlikely allies can work together

Letter by Brendan J. McCormick, Richmond, Va. on Aug. 16, 2010 at 11:34 am | No Comments »
August 16, 2010 12:48 pm

Re: “New law part of the fight to keep kids away from cigarettes” (Viewpoint, 8-13).

Altria’s tobacco companies agree with state Health Secretary Mary Selecky’s belief that the Food and Drug Administration can play an important role in preventing underage tobacco use. However, her comments didn’t account for our tobacco companies’ support of various efforts to keep kids from using tobacco.

Altria’s tobacco companies, which include Philip Morris USA, joined public health groups to support the law giving the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products. This law includes a number of provisions to address underage use of tobacco products, including regulations requiring retailers to obtain identification from consumers under 27 years of age and prohibiting most “self-service” displays.

Of course, Altria’s tobacco companies market their products to adults who use tobacco. Their brand advertising appears primarily through tools that involve age verification, such as direct mail to adults who use tobacco, and at retail where adult consumers make their decisions about which brand to buy.

Contrary to the secretary’s assertion, these companies do not conduct product research with those under the age of 18 or people who do not use tobacco products. The companies also support the We Card program, which trains retailers on how to spot fake IDs.

Underage tobacco use across the nation and in Washington has dropped significantly and is now at its lowest point in a generation. We agree there’s still more work to be done, and hope that all parties involved in the effort will recognize that even unlikely allies can work together.

(McCormick is vice president for communications with Altria Client Services.)

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