RICHMOND, VA: Altria, parent company to Philip Morris, created a new website to motivate adult tobacco consumers to become more vocal about tobacco-related public policy issues.
The corporation designed the site, Citizens for Tobacco Rights, to provide tools and resources to help citizens get informed, involved, and active on tobacco issues. It appears more colorful, interactive, and consumer-friendly than its predecessor, TobaccoIssues.com, which also targeted retailers. The latter is responsible for more than 17,000 adult tobacco consumers contacting their legislators in 2011, the company said.
“This online community provides a one-stop shop for tobacco issues,” said David Sutton, senior manager of media and communications at Altria . “If you feel strongly about an issue and want to become more active, here is an online community help enable to do that.”
The site primarily details tobacco tax initiatives and federal and state regulation. The site also encourages ordinary citizens to become more involved in tobacco issues in their communities and offers instructions on social media use, as well as traditional media outreach, as a way to gain a sway in the conversations about tobacco.
The traditional media outreach sections shows participants how to write effective "letters to the editor” and how to act as an articulate talk radio guest. The social media section encourages avid use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.
It also contains links to information on the health effects of tobacco use.
Anti-tobbaco interests have expressed concern about the site. "It comes as no surprise that the nation's largest tobacco manufacturer is trying hard to rally its customer base, which is dwindling by the day," said Julia Cartwright, SVP of communications at Legacy, the foundation behind the long running Truth campaign, in an email to PRWeek. "What is ironic is that the products they are working to protect from high taxes and bans are killing up to a third of the customers who consume them."
Altria is promoting the website through media outreach and targeted emails to consumers on various corporate mailing lists. Sutton declined to discuss how many people this entails. All efforts were handled in-house, Sutton said.
The company owns Philip Morris USA, US Smokeless Tobacco Co., John Middleton Co., Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and Philip Morris Capital Corp.