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WASHINGTON-Was it a shakedown by a congressional aide or merely a constructive suggestion?

In any case, Scott Cooper last week attracted lots of attention when he suggested the ad industry pool its resources behind a public service campaign targeting teen smokers-and then linked development of such a campaign to the industry's chances of winning or losing significant battles on Capitol Hill.

His comments came in a closed-door briefing with the government relations and legal affairs committees of the American Advertising Federation.

Mr. Cooper is the top aide to Rep. Al Swift (D., Wash.), who chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation & Hazardous Materials. That subcommittee oversees the Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency that regulates virtually all advertising.

"I'd say what I was trying to do was to point out what should be enlightened self-interest on the part of the advertising industry," Mr. Cooper said after the briefing. "Teen smoking is a huge problem. And the ad industry always says that advertising does not induce teen smoking. But that doesn't matter because in the public perception, advertising is part of the problem.

"So I said that if they wanted to be part of the solution to the problem ... go out and do some really good PSAs ... I certainly think they could pitch something as compelling as [ending] teen smoking."

Mr. Cooper denied he floated the idea of an ad industry campaign against underage smokers as a quid pro quo. But he didn't deny that might be a consequence.

"There would be a clear benefit that you could almost measure," he said. "There are a lot of peripheral issues up here right now-tobacco advertising and food advertising and alcohol advertising legislation-and doing something on teen smoking would not only be right, it would be a good pre-emptive."

Several committee members and AAF officials declined to comment on the briefing, which Mr. Cooper said was a restatement of an earlier, virtually identical plea by Rep. Swift to the ad industry. Bothseemed to fall on deaf ears, Mr. Cooper said.

But that might not be too surprising. The AAF's broad membership includes tobacco marketers and agencies that service tobacco accounts and media that benefit from tobacco schedules.

"Can you really imagine the ad industry doing something like that?" asked one AAF member, who requested anonymity. "Philip Morris and RJR are very important entities. Besides, I have 100 things to worry about, and I'm not going to make tobacco No. 101. It's a tobacco industry issue."

While the industry as a whole hasn't addressed the issue of teen smoking, it has been part of ad campaigns. In 1990, the California Department of Health Services launched one of the largest anti-tobacco campaigns ever, a $28.6 million effort handled by the now-defunct Keye/Donna/Pearlstein, Los Angeles. The tax-financed campaign is currently in review, but the state is expected to spend $22.9 million over two years.

The Tobacco Institute in 1988 began an anti-teen smoking campaign that included TV, print and point of purchase, via Reuben M. Smith Associates, Nashville, Tenn. That multimillion-dollar effort ended last year, when tobacco marketers began their own campaigns.

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