Ad biz must kick the habit

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Advertising groups have a golden opportunity to rethink their opposition to new tobacco marketing controls now that the U.S. Supreme Court has derailed President Clinton's plan to use the Food & Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products and tobacco advertising. They should seize it and end the uncomfortable alliance that has linked the ad business with the tobacco business for decades.

The Supreme Court's ruling that the FDA lacks congressional authority to regulate tobacco products and tobacco marketing throws the tobacco debate back to Congress, which has been unable to agree on what to do next. But the tobacco debate has already changed -- forever. Tobacco industry leaders have given up the fiction that health concerns about their products were "theories," and the foolish contention that cigarettes are not addictive. And, in a stunning settlement with state attorneys general, the industry has accepted sweeping restrictions to protect teens and young kids from exposure to tobacco advertising and marketing activities.

Thankfully, no longer are advertising's First Amendment privileges trotted out to resist change. Now that everyone, including tobacco executives, agrees that tobacco is a uniquely dangerous product, advertising groups no longer need sit at the industry's elbow. Ad industry leaders can chart a new course on tobacco and help shape the solution. It's a change that's long overdue.

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