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Friday, April 23, 1999 Published at 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK

World: Americas

Marlboro Man bites the dust

The Richmond Braves baseball ground - before and after the Marlboro Man

The Marlboro Man - recently voted Advertising Age magazine's number one advertising icon of the century - is no more.

From Friday morning, 4,100 tobacco advertising billboards in the United States are being turned over to anti-smoking campaigns as part of an agreement reached last November between major tobacco companies and officials in 46 states.

New boards, featuring designs such as a cowboy telling his buddy he has emphysema, and a cemetery full of crosses, will take their place.

"This is a significant step in the effort to limit the ability of the tobacco companies to market their products to kids," Bill Novelli, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.

Wide ban

The restrictions ban all outdoor advertising including billboards in arenas, stadiums and shopping centres.

They also bar distribution and sale of clothing and merchandise such as caps, T-shirts and backpacks with tobacco brand-name logos.

And using cartoons in the advertising and packaging of tobacco is also on the hit list.

'I miss my lung, Bob'

Some states have designed their own replacement billboards - paid for by the tobacco companies - while others are using Food and Drug Administration designs.

Instead of lighting up, the cowboy model in one advert tells his companion: "I miss my lung, Bob".

Others carry blunt messages such as: "Warning: When used as directed cigarettes kill".

Camel culture

But Samuel Craig, chairman of the marketing department at New York University's Stern Business School, says the billboard ban will have little effect.

"Billboards serve as very good reminders and ways of keeping a brand in front of people ... but in and of themselves they are not a key determinant of whether people smoke or whether they buy a specific brand," he said.

According to Mr Craig, tobacco companies will look for other places to promote their product.

"For better or for worse, I think Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man have become American icons, a part of American culture," he said.

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