Carlton In the tobacco industry’s latest marketing wrinkle for the Philip Morris Companies, the world’s largest cigarette company, introduced a major cigarette brand yesterday with 90 percent less nicotine than standard brands.

Philip Morris’s low-nicotine cigarette is an attempt to appeal to smokers who want a seemingly healthier cigarette, but with more taste than other brands making similar claims. The industry’s first such innovation, low-tar cigarettes, has now won a majority of sales.

Less nicotine would mean less satisfaction of the nicotine craving. The company discounted the possibility that some smokers might simply buy more cigarettes.

The R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s Now brand and the American Tobacco Company’s Carlton cigarettes have similarly low levels of nicotine, but emphasize low tar levels. They have rarely, if ever, made reduced nicotine a marketing theme.

Philip Morris plans to market its low-nicotine cigarette to Now and Carlton smokers.

Tar is made up of the particles in smoke that result from tobacco combustion. Nicotine is a nitrogen-based substance found in tobacco that some researchers say is strongly addictive. Unlike nicotine, which is largely flavorless, tar provides much of the distinctive taste of tobacco.

Carlton and Now use low-nicotine tobacco blends and heavy filtration systems to reduce tar and nicotine. Merit uses what Philip Morris calls a “dual concentric filter,” designed to make it easier to inhale the smoke while reducing nicotine. A National Introduction

Philip Morris, based in New York, is showing extraordinary confidence in the new product by introducing it nationally, rather than regionally. The new cigarette will be available on Feb. 18, backed by advertising devised by Leo Burnett, the advertising agency responsible for Marlboros and previous Merit versions.

The advertising slogans will be: “Introducing flavor at the lowest levels of tar and nicotine” and “Discover a new way to smoke at the lowest levels of tar and nicotine.”

Philip Morris appears to be aiming Merit Ultima at men, judging from its advertising emphasis on flavor. At the end of the cigarette, it is using the brownish tipping — a “cork” in industry parlance — that is preferred by full-flavor cigarette smokers, usually males. ‘Will It Work?’

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