Cigarette ad decline hits US print media

“I’d walk a mile for a Camel” was one of the slogans one of America’s biggest tobacco companies used for years to promote one of its more popular brands.

It hasn’t been seen for a long time and may never be seen again.

The RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company has decided to run no more ads in the coming year in consumer magazines or newspapers for brands such as Camel, Winston and Pall Mall.

It will instead concentrate on direct mail and websites.

RJ Reynolds is the second large American tobacco company to cut back on print advertising. Philip Morris has not placed print ads for any of its products for three years.

Unlike the UK, where most tobacco advertising is banned, cigarette advertising is still a source of ad revenue. The print media, particularly glossy weeklies and monthlies were once the main marketing tool of the big American tobacco companies. But they have been cutting back sharply, and it has been a big blow to many newspapers and magazines.

Latest figures show that print ads accounted for almost $46 million (£22.2m) of the $13.1 billion (£6.3b) spent on cigarette and tobacco advertising in 2005, with newspapers collecting about $1.6 million (£770,000) and magazines about $44 million (£21m).

That is down sharply from a year earlier, when print advertising by tobacco firms was roughly $100.6 million (£48.7m) – $4.9 million (£2.4m) in newspapers and $95.7 (£56.3m) in magazines.

Anti-smoking campaigns had already drastically reduced the amount tobacco companies spend these days on print ads.

Some manufacturers stopped advertising in publications such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated because of their large number of readers under legal smoking age. Some stopped advertising on back pages of magazines because of their visibility on news stands.

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