Philip Morris

Altria, parent of Philip Morris USA, has hired Omnicom’s Mercury as its Washington lobbyist on tobacco product regulations.

The $25.6B Richmond-based giant says it's committed to marketing “reduced risk products” to the 40M adult Americans who continue to smoke.

The Food & Drug Administration believes more than half of US smokers (22M) are interested in using less harmful nicotine product alternatives to cigarettes.

PM has focused its sights on e-vapor, smokeless/oral nicotine products and heated tobacco items as platforms with the potential to drive adult smoker conversion.

Meanwhile, PM’s flagship Marlboro cigarette showed a 0.7 percent slip in retail share and an 8.8 percent drop in shipments during 2017.

Mercury managing directors Stephen Aaron and Al Simpson handle the Altria business.

Aaron joined Mercury from Levick following an eight-year stint as federal liaison for the National Rifle Assn. where his duties included prepping witnesses for Congressional hearings, message crafting and strategic delivery.

Simpson is former chief of staff to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management & Budget and ex-South Carolina Congressman.