In yet another blow for America’s ailing publishing sector, it has emerged that Philip Morris is yet to place a single magazine ad this year and is planning a major cutback in its print activity.

“We have made a business decision to reduce our magazine advertising in 2002,” commented Brendan McCormick, head of media affairs at Philip Morris USA, “and that is going to result in a reduction in the number of publications in which we'll advertise.”

Cue much gnashing of teeth among the nation’s magazine publishers: “I'm going to slit my wrists,” one melodramatic executive told AdAge.

The tobacco giant’s magazine ad budget has been tumbling rapidly in recent years – down 50% between 1999 and 2001 – mainly due to the voluntary cessation of advertising in titles with high youth readership and a decision not to buy back-page ads.

However, the latest cutbacks are seen as a new departure away from the print sector, with some executives expecting a major announcement from the firm concerning its magazine policy in the near future.

America’s biggest tobacco company, Philip Morris paid out $114.7 million on magazine ads last year, a hefty proportion of the $267m spent by the industry as a whole. However, print advertising is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount dished out on sales incentives, worth $6.6 billion in 1999 (the last year figures are available for).

Other tobacco firms, keen to claw back some ground on the market leader, do not seem to be following Philip Morris’s lead – number two R J Reynolds Tobacco has been buying ads as usual so far this year, while third-placed Brown & Williamson Tobacco intends to maintain its magazine expenditure.

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