Mary W. Covington

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Mary Covington is said to be the daughter of the founder of Covington & Burling, the tobacco industry's main legal lobby company in Washington, (this is likely, but not confirmed). She was certainly a major player in the 1970s and 1980s scams mounted by Philip Morris in the days of the Cullman family control.

Her main claim to fame was establishing and running the international tobacco industry lobby group ICOSI -- the International Committee on Smoking Issues which arose out of Operation Berkshire. ICOSI was later replaced by the Brussels-based INFOTAB which was then handed over to Bryan Simpson when Hamish Maxwell and the Australians moved into control of Philip Morris.

Mary W. Covington (VP Corp. Affairs PMI '79, PR Dir. Philip Morris; Chair of SAWP (ICOSI)): Philip Morris Public Relations Director; Chair of ICOSI's Social Acceptability Working Party (1980)

A rough timeline

  • Manager of Public Relations at Philip Morris in New York. (1971-73); Public Relations
  • Public Relations Director of PM USA (1973-77);
  • Philip Morris International Vice President Corporate Affairs (1977-85);
  • Coordinator of the International Committee on Smoking Issues (ICOSI) in Brussels.
  • Secretary General of INFOTAB (actually just extension of ICOSI) in Brussels (1981-1982)

She took over ICOSI after the abrupt departure of Julian Doyle as Secretary-General. In early 1982 she registered the new organisation INFOTAB in Geneva, but returned to run it out of the Brussels base.

  • Executive Director of International Advertising Association (IAA) (1982-90?)

Documents & Timeline

1978 Sep: Mary Covington of ICOSI/Philip Morris has provided Background Information for visit of Mr Bryan Simpson, Director Tobacco Institute of Australia He was to officially start his new job with the Tobacco Institute of Australia on December 1978 (Simpson and two staff). [2]

Bryan Simpson was a relative of Rupert Murdoch who had run the Media Council on Australia, then the Tobacco Institute of Australia. He was later to take over the new INFOTAB from Mary Covington in 1982.

1982 Aug: She was helping the Belgium PR company to set up a fake Cigarettes and Cancer Conference which would be loaded with tobacco scientists, [3]

1988 Dec /E Tobacco Institute memo on Advertising/Warning Label Issues. The cigarette advertising-ban issue had been revised by an AMA conference in Houston (Nov 1988). They were also being threatened by coming under the control of the FDA, so the messages the industry and its allies must promote are:

  • This is a First Amendment, free-speech issue
  • Restrictions on advertising and promotion are unwise -- can lead down the slippery slope to other industries.
  • Advertising doesn't influence young people to smoke -- it only effects brand selection.
  • Reducing advertising will not reduce smoking.
  • Counter advertising is not effective -- the anti-smoking message is already at saturation point.
  • Tobacco sponsorship of cultural events enhances education in many communites.

They also add an extensive list of supporters and witnesses who will appear at any hearings. This includes:

    Advertising Witnesses
  • Mary Covington, executive director, International Advertising Association.


[She was the ex-Philip Morris Corporate Affiars executive, and ex-head of ICOSI]


Mary W. Covington was a Philip Morris Public Relations Director (PMI's Introduction to Privilege Log and Glossary of Names, Estate of Burl Butler v. PMI, et al, April 19, 1996). By 1979 she had become Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Philip Morris International (taken from Philip Morris letterhead, 2501022187). Mary Covington also served as Chair of the Social Acceptability Working Party for ICOSI, the International Committee on Smoking Issues.

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