Anti-Smoking Ads May Turn Into Rich New Business Vein

WASHINGTON, D.C.-If certain states, such as Texas, California and New York, follow Florida’s lead in settling its lawsuit against the cigarette companies, the spending for anti-smoking messages will eventually surpass the ad budget for the entire tobacco industry.
As part of the settlement negotiated last week, tobacco companies have agreed to pay Florida $200 million to be used over a 24-month period for an anti-smoking campaign that will include advertising, educational programs and stricter policing of tobacco sales to minors.
The money will fund the “Pilot Program,” a prototype anti-smoking endeavor that other states may reproduce as they hammer out their own agreements with the tobacco corporations.
The cigarette companies spent a total of $675 million on advertising in 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
“This is a lot of new advertising money coming in,” said Burtch Drake, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Advertising Agencies in New York. “Everyone under the sun wants a piece of the action.”
Beltway lobbyists have noted a trend toward anti-vice advertising on the state and federal level that could bring more than $1 billion in new advertising money in the next few years-depending on how it is allocated.
“Our job is to help the government figure out how best to spend this money,” one lobbyist said.
The Office of the Attorney General in Florida did not return calls at press time.
One source close to the process said the state had not yet decided how it would administer the $200 million fund.
Massachusetts already has an anti-smoking fund paid for by cigarette taxes. Boston agency Houston Herstek Favat has handled the $12 million account, administered by the state’s Department of Public Health since its inception. The award-winning campaigns, featuring former cigarette smokers, have added to the shop’s renown. -with Judy Warner