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Altria's New Platform for Smokers

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Altria Group (NYSE:MO - News), the parent company of Phillip Morris, U.S.A, recently came up with a platform for the tobacco consumers to make them aware of the prevailing issues in the tobacco industry.

The company announced that it has launched a website called ‘Citizens For Tobacco Rights’ for adult smokers where they can come together and share their views regarding the tobacco industry.

The interactive website is expected to help tobacco consumers to gather information, get involved and be active on tobacco issues. The site also encourages tobacco users to fight against the high taxes and several undue restrictions imposed by the government on the tobacco companies.

‘Citizens For Tobacco Rights’ is also an attempt on Altria’s part to cleanse the image of the tobacco companies in the eyes of its customers, as the government has left no other avenues for these companies to reach out to their customers. The government has banned all kinds of advertisements and also restricted the use of tobacco in films, magazines and billboards.

This website seconds another platform called tobaccoissues.com, which was launched in 2009. Through this site more than 17,000 adult tobacco consumers contacted their legislators regarding the tobacco rights in 2011.

Dark clouds over the tobacco industry loom large as one country after another decide to take measures to reduce smoking rates in their country. In a recent ruling, the Food and Drug Administration (‘FDA’) has asked the tobacco giants of the United States to print the latest design set by the council on their cigarette packets from the coming year. Graphic design of a dead body, cancerous lungs and rotten teeth would definitely be a scary intimidation for US tobacco lovers each time they pick up a packet of their favorite brands.

This apart, the Australian Federal government is forcing cigarette manufacturers to sell their products in plain packages with warning labels occupying at least three fourth of the front side as against the present norm of allocating 30% of the front space. The bill has been passed by the Australian Parliament last month and will be effective December 2012.

British American Tobacco Plc.(AMEX:BTI - News) and Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM - News), has also announced that the government's plans would infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws and filed a lawsuit in the nation’s High Court within two weeks of the passing of the bill, arguing that the legislation is unconstitutional and violates intellectual property rights.

Currently we prefer to remain Neutral on Altria. Moreover, Altria holds a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term Hold rating

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