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State attorneys general, who last year reached a $368 billion accord with tobacco makers that included ad curbs but required congressional action, are discussing a new pact needing no action by Congress.

An announcement of an agreement could come as soon as next week, say some close to the talks.

As part of any accord, tobacco marketers are expected to agree to pull all outdoor advertising and end giveaways of merchandise with brand names, as they agreed to do in settling a Minnesota case in May.


The renewed discussions follow a U.S. District Court decision last week that halted Chicago's effort to ban outdoor ads for alcoholic beverages and tobacco product, which sets the stage for more court battles between municipalities and the ad industry.

The city ordinance thrown out by the court had barred outdoor ads for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages from most parts of the city, and had been challenged by outdoor companies and local ad organizations.

In his decision, Judge Milton Shadur said existing federal law bars local governments from regulating tobacco ads, and struck down the alcoholic-beverage portion of the ordinance because it could not be separated from the tobacco portion.

Similar local laws in Baltimore and Pierce County (Tacoma), Wash., were upheld earlier by U.S. District Court judges. The Baltimore ordinance also survived a challenge before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal of the Baltimore law. Attorneys expect Judge Shadur's ruling to be appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Unclear in the attorneys general-tobacco industry talks last week was what other ad curbs would be included and whether any agreement would include restrictions on brand-name sponsorships and magazine ads in titles with significant underage readership.


Tobacco marketers, in their historic June 20, 1997, settlement with attorneys general, agreed to voluntarily implement broad ad curbs, including all the restrictions sought by the Food & Drug Administration and then some. The pact would have eliminated the use of people and cartoons in tobacco ads.

That settlement, however, anticipated Congress limiting industry liability payments.

Attorneys general from California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Washington are participating in the talks, which include no public health groups.

Both sides in the talks were generally withholding public comment; Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire told state media last week that she would have left the talks if progress were not being made.


The talks come as chances for any congressional action on tobacco before September appeared to have ended.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.) and Rep. Deborah Pryce (R., Ohio), who heads a House GOP tobacco task force, had hoped to pass a Republican tobacco plan this week before Congress adjourns for the August recess.

The GOP leadership late last week, however, appeared to be delaying a vote amid reports some Republican congressmen want

to avoid any tobacco vote and others don't want to vote on legislation without including aid for farmers.

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