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A group of 50 independent ad and public relations agencies last week endorsed HMS Partners Chairman David Milenthal's quest for a voluntary tobacco ad code as an alternative to government regulation.

"We adopted a resolution saying that we believe marketing communication is a powerful influence on youth smoking," said Patricia Fisk, president of Denver-based Worldwide Partners, in which HMS Partners, Columbus, Ohio, is a member. "Worldwide Partners strongly supports the adoption of voluntary guidelines to eliminate marketing and advertising of tobacco products to minors."

Two of the U.S. agencies in Worldwide Partners handle tobacco companies. Archer/Malmo, Memphis, Tenn., handles Conwood Tobacco Products' smokeless tobacco; Russell, Karsh & Hagan, a Denver PR agency, handles some Philip Morris Cos. business.

With the code still to be drawn up, its impact remains uncertain.

Ms. Fisk said her group hopes to get comments from tobacco companies as well as critics of the industry in drafting a code, and also hopes to get other advertising executives involved.

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