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Philip Morris Cos. is going on the offensive in the wake of the Food & Drug Administration's release of affidavits from ex-PM scientists contending the marketer-despite company claims-manipulated the nicotine content of its cigarettes.

"What does Philip Morris have to say about the allegation of `nicotine manipulation'? Plenty," said newspaper ads from Young & Rubicam, New York, that began running nationally March 22.

"We wanted to get our side of the story out to make sure consumers understand our position that we do not manipulate nicotine," said Ellen Merlo, VP-corporate affairs. "We are not sure we always get our side of the story out with the same weight and balance."

Matthew Myers, general counsel for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, suggested it was time to make ad agencies responsible for the harm tobacco advertising causes.

"It is unfortunate this is not viewed as a signal to agencies to review their own activity," he said. "Where we are today is because of the unwillingness of the ad industry to ever say `no' to the tobacco industry, no matter how blatant the marketing to kids."

"We have a very clear position. We are protecting advertising, not a particular part of society," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP, Association of National Advertisers.

"In a free society you must follow constitutional standard. These rules are unconstitutional, whatever the product. If you are concerned about tobacco, you should go after that instead of manipulating advertising."

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