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Is Altria Latin for Litter?

"... Our best course of action may be maintaining a low profile while working to exempt cigarettes from coverage of pending litter control legislation ... Recommendation ... the concept of courtesy should be limited to the smoking of -- rather than the disposal of -- tobacco products."
--Tobacco Institute Memo, 1979

Media: Click Here for Press Release

Come to where the litter is! Philip Morris products
in our communities.
As Philip Morris gets ready to change its name to Altria, millions of Americans are wondering if Altria will just be the latest fancy word for litter, since Philip Morris not only produces trillions of the cigarette butts that litter our sidewalks, beaches and parks, but also refuses to help communities reduce the problem by implementing basic, affordable measures.

We understand that smokers, not cigarette companies, must take ultimate responsibility for their trash. However, the fact that cigarette companies are withholding key information about cigarette litter from their customers that would encourage them not to litter is shamefully irresponsible and downright unneighborly. All we are asking from cigarette companies is that they adopt three basic practices already in use by other industries:

1) Publish information about cigarette litter on their corporate web sites.

BREAKING NEWS! Within two weeks of our launching the "Altria Means Litter" ad campaign, Philip Morris contacted us and notified us that they intended to change their web site to better reflect an open position on cigarette litter. This new web page is now on-line:

Philip Morris Acknowledges Litter Problem

We congratulate Philip Morris for taking this first step and encourage them to follow up on this new direction with meaningful and effective programs that educate their customers about the adverse environmental impact of cigarette butt litter. The web site is a great start, but until they advertise this new position, it will be like having a billboard in their basement.

2) Put some form of litter awareness messaging right on the pack.

What is the most effective, least expensive way to communicate to consumers? By putting the message right on the packaging. Philip Morris, one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world, knows this. Fast food companies, snack companies, and soda companies have stepped up to the plate and included litter awareness messages or logos somewhere on their product packaging. Yet Philip Morris and the other makers of the most frequently littered item on earth can't be bothered.

We've told that Philip Morris is investigating a new packaging method by which they could slip messages to consumers between the cardboard pack and the foil cigarette container, but that this could be one or even two years away. Philip Morris has know about this problem for many decades now, and they need to stop stalling. If someone in their marketing group concluded that a package change would increase sales, that change would be in the works as we speak.

3) Devote some sliver of their advertising budget to litter education.

Cigarette litter costs U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year by conservative estimates. Philip Morris has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on PR efforts to enhance its image. We think spending a few million dollars on cigarette litter education would not only help clean up its image, but help clean up our communities as well. For starters, it would be extremely effective and affordable to print small litter awareness messages on all of their existing magazine and poster advertisements.

Philip Morris is a master at sprinkling a few dollars here and there and then spending much more money bragging about their efforts. However, Americans know when they see a phony, and they know Philip Morris could help drastically reduce cigarette litter if they wanted to.

So, why has Philip Morris stubbornly refused each of these requests? Simple. They actually profit from the myths about cigarette litter. Any consumer goods company spends a lot of time thinking about packaging and disposal. They know that customers, among other things, are looking for convenience. What could be better for Philip Morris than to have millions of smokers wrongly believing that their product requires no disposal whatsoever! Why help spread the truth when the myth is better for business?

So in the end, Philip Morris has to choose between helping to keep our beautiful nation litter free, or keeping its customers in the dark with the hopes of a few extra dollars in profit. So far, that decision has been easy for them. We are here to make that decision harder. We hope that Americans from every state will help us pressure Philip Morris and other cigarette companies do what they should have had the decency to do on their own decades ago - to be honest with their customers and be honest with the nation.

To learn how you can help, click here.

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