To the editor:

We regret we had no opportunity to contribute to your recent article ("The war on cigarettes: A status report," July 23). In fact, your subheading, "Tobacco company response" was misleading; no tobacco response was solicited in preparation for the article.

As a result, many of the claims made by reporter Brooke Adams and her only source, anti-smoking activist Dr. John Holbrook, were incorrect.

For example, the suggestion by Holbrook that we direct our tobacco marketing efforts at young people is simply not true. We support mandatory age requirements for the purchase of cigarettes and stiff penalties for retailers who knowingly break the law.

Contrary to Holbrook's claims, Philip Moriris employs strict guidelines in the advertising and marketing of its cigarette brands in order to direct their appeal to adults who choose to smoke. The models in our ads are all more than 25 years of age and must look at least that old. We do not advertise in publications marketed primarily to young people. And we refuse to advertise on billboards that are within 500 feet of any school or youth center.

Studies indicate advertising plays a miniscule role in any individual's decision to smoke, regardless of age, gender or race. Parents, siblings and friends who smoke pay a much larger role, especially for young people.

Along the same lines, Adams writes that declining cigarette consumption in the U.S. has "forced tobacco companies to look elsewhere for new recruits." But the truth is that in the overseas markets where we sell our cigarettes, people have been smoking for centuries.

The decision to smoke is, ultimately, a personal one. We believe that it should be left up to informed adults to make their own individual choices and take responsibility for them.

John R. Nelson, vice president

Philip Morris

New York, N.Y.