FED REPORT FUELS BLAZE OVER TOBACCO

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WASHINGTON-The National Academy of Sciences last week added its name to the ever-expanding list of tobacco foes, endorsing state and federal restrictions on advertising to help prevent youths from smoking.

The academy's Institute of Medicine, took its stand against tobacco ads after a two-year review of existing studies and data, combined with its own research.

Earlier this year, Food & Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler suggested the FDA might be the proper repository for regulating tobacco, and its sales and marketing.

The institute said preventing youths from beginning to smoke should be a primary goal. Its recommendations included:

Increasing the tobacco tax by at least $2 a pack, with proportional increases for smokeless tobacco.

Banning tobacco vending machines and self-service displays.

Banning the distribution of free tobacco products in public places and through the mail.

Requiring merchants to obtain a license to sell tobacco that could be suspended if the merchant were found selling to minors.

Marketing took a double hit from the Institute of Medicine, which advocated short- and long-term responses. By the end of 1995, the institute said, the federal government should restore regulatory authority to states for tobacco sales and marketing.

And by the year 2000, all tobacco advertising should be of the "tombstone" variety-bereft of imagery. Also by end of the century, the institute would like to see all commercial use of tobacco brand names, logos and trademarks banned from movies, TV shows, plays and videogames, as well as from any public place to indicate sponsorship, including athletic and artistic events. The notion of allowing each state to go its own way in regulating tobacco marketing didn't set too well with the Association of National Advertisers. Exec VP Dan Jaffe said the national marketing of a product should be nationally regulated.

"Congress has rightfully decided that there should be one voice in this area," he said, "and if there is not just one, there will be a cacophony and an inability by the advertiser to work on a national basis ... It might be argued by constitutional experts, but if you believe in the First Amendment of the Constitution, then treating truthful speech differently becomes a legal problem when it's the same as a ban."

Tobacco Institute VP Walker Merryman dismissed the institute's report and recommendations as "the biggest waste of time I ever spent; there was nothing new in there ..."

As to state regulation of advertising, Mr. Merryman acknowledged that some cities-Baltimore and Cincinnati, among them-have enacted ad restrictions on outdoor boards but said state regulation is still undecided.

In the constant debate between tobacco apologists and detractors, a point of contention has been whether ad campaigns intentionally target young people.

Tobacco marketers argue their ads target smokers and aim to induce brand shifting, while anti-tobacco forces contend ads featuring cartoon characters, lifestyle imagery and product giveaways are blatantly aimed at kids.

But the Institute of Medicine study dismissed that debate.

"Whether or not youths are a targeted market segment, advertisements present images that appeal to children and youths and are seen and remembered by them," it said. "Research suggests that, regardless of intent, marketing pitches aimed at young adults ages 20 to 25 are also appealing to youths of the same class, gender and ethnic group."

And as for the disagreement on whether tobacco ads actually cause people to smoke, the study was equally dismissive. "Requiring definitive proof of causality on issues of this nature would unjustifiably stymie sensible public health regulation," it said.

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