A CONFLICT CALL

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The newly named director for a huge new anti-smoking communications program, funded by tobacco liability settlement dollars, has staked out reasonable ground in his first comments regarding which agencies in the ad industry are fit to join his team. Surprise! Shops with tobacco industry ties need not apply.

Reasonableness, however, ultimately rests in the details set by the board of state government officials, doctors and public health experts that governs the new foundation the tobacco settlement has created. Though hardliners might prefer it, the foundation's goals will be poorly served if it takes an extreme approach and disqualifies any agency or media buyer, or holding company, just because it once worked for a tobacco company.

This is a contentious issue. The White House Office of Drug Control Policy was pilloried in the Senate last year because Bates USA, an interim media buying agency for an anti-drug campaign, also handled tobacco work. We've said earlier that this ambitious new social marketing effort on smoking will be best served by casting a wide net for the best talent in the ad industry. "Punishing" agencies for past tobacco work may satisfy some zealots, but it hardly advances the aim of getting the best possible field of candidate agencies for this

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