TOBACCO GIANTS SHOULD SEIZE CHANCE TO GET SMOKERS COMING AND GOING

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Why don't the cigarette companies hedge their bets and acquire the marketers of those nicotine patches and gums?

That way they could get smokers coming and going. And they could position the patches and gums as a whole other way to enjoy the pleasures of nicotine without having to light up.

One slight impediment might be that the makers of these products are giant companies themselves-SmithKline Beecham sells Nicoderm patches and Nicorette gum; a unit of Johnson & Johnson markets the Nicotrol patch. Another big drug company, Ciby-Geigy Corp., is awaiting FDA approval to sell Habitrol over the counter.

It must rankle the cigarette companies that the brand names for the products sound so sinister, implying that smoking can actually take control of your mind and body. So they would have to rename them to reflect the idea that you now have alternative delivery systems for your daily dosage of nicotine. I suggest, as one possibility, NicoChoice. And the beauty of a nicotine gum is that it could capture business from those pesky chewing tobacco marketers. "Nicotine pleasure without spitting" would make a catchy, memorable tagline, I submit.

One consumer products company that could be in play is Carter-Wallace, marketer of such diverse products as Arrid deodorant, Nair hair remover, Trojan condoms and home pregnancy kits such as First Response. Investor Marvin Davis last week raised his bid for the company to $20 a share, so it could be Carter-Wallace Chairman Henry Hoyt Jr. is looking for a friendly buyer to take the company out of the snatches of Mr. Davis.

Carter-Wallace, come to think of it, is the perfect company to round out the cigarette companies' portfolios.

They have the vice market, sewed up, and now they have the opportunity, with Trojan and the pregnancy test kits to corner the market on sex as well.

Have you ever noticed that the headline and body type for Cadillac's new Catera is the same used for many years by The New Yorker?

In fact, every time I see a Catera ad I think of the magazine, which must be great for its circulation. And the ad's opening line, "Every once in a blue moon, something new comes along that scrambles your perceptions and turns out to be a whole new omelet," doesn't disabuse me of that notion. I can hardly wait to go to the newsstand to see what's different.

I made the mistake of liking my 2-year-old Infiniti Q45 a little too much. So when my lease ran out, I didn't want the new Q45, I wanted to keep my old one. But Nissan has made it outrageously expensive.

The car company wanted to charge me more than $1,000 a month, plus $6,000 as an upfront fee, for the privilege of retaining my car. And if I wanted to buy it outright, the Infiniti dealer told me I'd have to pay $5,000 more than what it would cost on the used car lot. Oh well, at least I didn't have to pay extra for a ding on my front fender when I turned it in.

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