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The possibility is growing that the Food & Drug Administration's strict tobacco ad restrictions could take effect no matter what U.S. courts eventually decide about tobacco advertising.

Just days after a U.S. District Court judge in Greensboro, N.C., tossed out the FDA's tobacco restrictions, a tobacco company lawyer who was briefing White House officials last week again offered to accept the FDA restrictions voluntarily, as well as some new, more extensive ones.

Tobacco companies offered to accept those ad restrictions before in talks with state attorneys general and lawyers who represent victims of smoking, but as those talks resume this week there are indications the latest offer is coming with an easing of demands for protection from tobacco lawsuits.


On Friday, health groups met in Chicago to discuss what to ask as part of any settlement. How willing they are to accept ad proposals remains uncertain and there are widely differing viewpoints.

"The discussions vis-a-vis marketer and advertising are essentially all laid out [already], though there might be some refinements," said Bill Novelli, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, suggesting that major unresolved issues among health groups are nicotine content, secondhand smoke and other issues.

Gregory Connelly, director of Massachusetts' anti-tobacco program, said he wants a settlement that includes a ban on all ad imagery, Internet advertising and the industry's funding of a $1 billion annual anti-smoking campaign.

The ad limits the tobacco companies have offered to accept aren't quite that extensive but go well beyond the FDA's ban on outdoor boards within 1,000 feet of a school or a playground, limits on imagery in magazines with a certain percentage of under 18 readership, bans on giveaways of items with tobacco brand names, and limits on brand-name event sponsorship.

As previously reported, tobacco marketers are offering to ban all outdoor boards and the use of people and cartoons in ads as well as fund an anti-smoking ad program.

Last week, there were indications that despite the court ruling, some limits could occur even if a deal does not go through and the government didn't win an appeal.

For one, the fate of R.J. Rey-nolds Tobacco Co.'s Joe Camel and other "mascot" advertising for adult products is under challenge as the Federal Trade Commission neared a new vote on a staff recommendation to take on RJR ads. That could include Anheuser-Busch's use of frogs in beer ads.


A lawyer cautioned the court ruling might not prevent the FDA from using its "labeling" power to bar some point-of-purchase materials promoting a product it considers to be making health claims-say the use of "light" or "ultralight" in tobacco brands names.

Ad groups last week said they would fight any such attempt.

However, the groups said their concern was government requirements that tobacco companies restrict their ads. A voluntary agreement by tobacco companies not to

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