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Tobacco Company Begins Direct Sales
Will Sell Cigarettes Through Catalogs
Get Quote, Company Info: <A HREF="aol://4785:BTI">BTI</A>
By BRUCE SCHREINER
.c The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Oct. 13) - Brown & Williamson Tobacco hopes to do for
cigarettes what L.L. Bean has done for khakis.
In what is believed to be a first, B&W is beginning to sell its less-popular
brands through catalogs. The intent is to maintain customer loyalty to its
second-tier brands, many of which get squeezed out by tough competition and
are not regularly stocked by retailers.
Critics of B&W's plans accuse the company of devising a creative way to
undermine regulations aimed at protecting children from the marketing of
Like it or not, adult smokers in nine states will soon be able to order B&W
brands, such as Misty and Capri, by phone, fax or mail, and eventually over
the Internet. The company said Thursday that it has formed a subsidiary, BWT
Direct LLC, devoted to catalog sales.
Thousands of catalogs will be mailed by the end of next week.
``Most retailers limit the cigarette brands and brand styles they stock,
displaying only those with a significant market share,'' said John
Heironimus, president of BWT Direct and vice president of its parent company.
``The result has been that many loyal, longtime customers of some of B&W's
traditional products have difficulty locating those products.''
But tobacco critics are suspicious of the venture, saying it seems aimed at
wooing new customers. Anti-smoking advocates are particularly concerned about
protecting children from direct sales.
``What they are doing with catalog sales is opening up a potential whole new
way to market their product,'' said Ahron Leichtman, executive director of
Citizens for a Tobacco-Free Society.
``And while the industry says it is putting in place a strategy to prevent
those sales to minors, in the past they have proven to be ineffective in
prohibiting those illegal sales,'' Leichtman added.
Karen Brotzge, BWT Direct's executive vice president, said the company will
only send catalogs to smokers whose ages have been verified and that it will
only sell to people 21 or older. She said the company has hired a database
firm to verify that customers are adults.
In cases where BWT cannot independently verify a potential customer's age,
the company will send out an age-verification packet, she said. The packet
must be returned with a copy of a driver's license or other government-issued
B&W brands to be sold in catalogs are Carlton, Misty, Capri, Barclay,
Tareyton, Raleigh, Belair, Tall and Silva Thins. Combined, those brands
account for 3.5 percent of the U.S. cigarette market, said B&W spokesman Mark
B&W is setting a minimum two-carton purchase through direct sales. Prices
will not be less than what people pay at retail stores; excise taxes will be
The company's best-selling brands - Kool, Lucky Strike and GPC - will not be
sold in catalogs.
David Adelman, a tobacco industry analyst with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter,
credited Brown & Williamson with developing an unusual way of attempting to
prevent customers from switching to more accessible brands.
``These are brands that are losing distribution,'' Adelman said. ``There are
people who would like to continue smoking them, but they can't find them. I
think it's a reasonable alternative.''
Direct sales will begin in nine states - California, Kentucky, Florida,
Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Oregon and Massachusetts - but will
expand later, the company said.
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