Altria's tobacco companies – Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco and John Middleton – market to adults who use tobacco. Altria’s tobacco companies market in two ways: through age-verified direct communications to adult tobacco consumers and in retail stores where adult tobacco consumers make their purchase decisions. We do not use TV, newspapers, radio, billboards or product placement to advertise our products. The vast majority of our marketing expenditures come in the form of price promotions. It’s important to note that the average price of a pack of cigarettes has increased by 78 percent from 2000 - 2010.
We agree with the Surgeon General and others that kids should not use tobacco products, and we share the common goal of keeping tobacco products out of the hands of kids. Tremendous progress has been made in reducing overall underage tobacco use, which is at its lowest level in a generation. In fact, today, underage smoking ranks lower than alcohol or marijuana use. We are encouraged by recent government data that show illegal retail tobacco sales to minors are at historic lows. While significant progress has been made in reducing underage tobacco use over time, we agree that more work needs to be done.
Since the enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in June of 2009, the Food & Drug Administration regulates the manufacturing, marketing and sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Altria’s tobacco companies worked for years in support of passage of that law, and were the only tobacco companies that supported its enactment.
Federal law mandates that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco be sold behind the counter through age-verified transactions and makes it illegal to sell tobacco to minors. Additionally, the 50 state attorneys general have oversight on how cigarettes are marketed through the tobacco settlement agreements that were signed in the late 1990s. Even before the tobacco settlement agreements, our tobacco companies supported youth tobacco access prevention laws. Since that agreement gave the state attorneys general the authority to enforce its marketing provisions in 1998, not a single enforcement action has been brought against Philip Morris USA.
In addition, there is more tobacco-generated revenue available to states and the federal government today than ever before to fund proven-effective efforts to prevent underage tobacco use. However, the Centers for Disease Control have said that many states have not devoted adequate funding toward youth smoking prevention and cessation programs and we think they should. Philip Morris USA, alone, has made tobacco settlement agreement payments of more than $55 billion to the states since 1997. The states have the funds to spend more than $65 million per day on effective programs to prevent underage tobacco use, but only spend about $1 million per day.
Underage tobacco use is a difficult issue, and there is not a simple solution. We agree there’s still more work to be done, and encourage all involved to recognize that the tobacco industry, public health, the federal government and the states can and should work together to keep tobacco products out of kids’ hands.