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Inside Move: Cig giant blowing smoke?

Biz skeptical of Philip Morris ads

Where there’s smoke … there’s a mirror?

Cigarette manufacturing giant Philip Morris launched an ad campaign this week pleading with Hollywood to stop any free product placement: “Please Don’t Give Our Cigarette Brands a Part in Your Movie,” read ads placed in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

PM said in a good-corporate-citizen statement that it is concerned about recent studies showing smoking in movies can make kids light up.

But Hollywood insiders aren’t buying it.

Some are speculating that PM’s real motive is to forestall any possible federal action that might further inhibit sales or advertising. But one Hollywood lobbyist, who is unaware of such action even under consideration, says it’s very simple: “Philip Morris is just looking for good PR.”

Stanton Glantz, head of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UC San Francisco, agreed. “Philip Morris is just trying to cover its ass because of the agreement it signed in 1998 with the states attorneys general not to promote smoking in movies,” Glantz said.

While the ads create the appearance that PM does not want to benefit from its cigarette brands that are smoked in a movie, PM will benefit even if other brands are shown, Glantz added.

Time Warner has established a policy on smoking in films. “When we develop films, we work with our creative talent to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that smoking is not depicted in our films unless there is a compelling creative reason and the depiction is integral to the character or scene in question,” policy states. “We are also pursuing strategies for limiting the depiction of smoking in movies marketed to youth.”

Policy also says TW “does not enter into any product placement or promotion deals with tobacco companies for any of our films.”

The Motion Picture Assn. of America did not respond to requests for comment.

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