The Tobacco Manufacturer's Association is on the hunt for a new agency this week following the decision of Edelman PR Worldwide not to repitch for the account.
Edelman has held the business for 16 years but said a major client conflict had forced it to resign the brief.
The estimated six-figure account is to run the TMA's Tobacco Alliance, a supposedly grassroots group of 26,000 tobacco retailers which is funded by the big three UK tobacco firms - Gallaher, Imperial and Rothmans BAT.
A fresh shortlist of agencies is being drawn up by TMA public affairs director John Carlisle.
Although some PR firms have made public their refusal to work with tobacco companies, Carlisle remains confident a new agency will be found. 'We won't be short of candidates,' he said.
The TMA is funded by donations from the tobacco firms, decided in proportion to their market share. Gallaher, which sells Benson and Hedges, has a 40 per cent share. Lambert and Butler's UK parent, Imperial Tobacco, contributes 36 per cent, while Rothmans gives 16 per cent of the body's running costs.
The key aim of the Tobacco Alliance is to lobby for a cut in tobacco duty with a view to making cigarette smuggling less attractive to bootleggers.
Smuggling is on the rise, with 25 per cent of the 84 billion cigarettes being smoked this year coming in as contraband. The figure for 1995 was only six per cent.
Edelman London MD John Mahony would not disclose who his agency's new client was, but said that after 16 years with the Tobacco Alliance the agency regretted the split. 'Client conflict is a fact of life,' he added.