CRITICS STOKE TOBACCO DEBATE

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The tobacco industry remained on the hot seat last week, confronted by new lawsuits, smoking bans and other smoking-cessation campaigns:

A group of attorneys including famed San Francisco lawyer Melvin Belli filed suit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans charging major tobacco companies with suppressing information on nicotine; manipulating the level of nicotine in cigarettes; concealing nicotine's addictive effect; and asserting through broad claims in their advertising that it was not addictive.

Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, in a TV interview, condemned the tobacco industry for targeting teen-agers but again stopped short of calling for an ad ban.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), a frequent critic of the tobacco industry, accused Philip Morris USA of trying to suppress publication of its own 1983 study on nicotine addiction.

Philip Morris denied the charge, saying research by the involved scientist, including five studies conducted while he was employed by the tobacco giant, has been published.

Rep. Waxman declined to endorse an ad ban, though he conceded that shifting regulation of tobacco to the Food & Drug Administration would result in stricter regulation of tobacco advertising. The congressman is chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health & Environment.

Amtrak said it would ban smoking on all short- and medium-distance trains effective May 1 and also ban smoking on some long-distance overnight trips except when a train is standing at a station. The change means 82% of Amtrak trains, including all daytime trains between Washington and Boston, will be non-smoking.

The American Medical Association joined with General Nutrition Centers to sponsor a smoking-cessation infomercial and TV support group.

The $69.95 stop-smoking program promoted in the infomercial will be sold at GNC stores; the effort was created by Orbus Direct, Chicago. The infomercial began running late last week. Consumers buying the program will be able to participate in a video support group airing weekend mornings on CNBC.

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