Wanted Advice on Comparing Safety of Tobacco Products

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NEW YORK ( -- U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. withdrew its request to the Federal Trade Commission for an opinion about whether smokeless-tobacco products could be advertised as less hazardous than cigarettes.

In a letter to the FTC dated Aug. 12, the $1 billion maker of brands including Copenhagen and Skoal temporarily withdrew its initial request -- made in February -- pending two scientific conferences that may provide further information on the debate.

Cites two conferences
"USSTC is withdrawing its request at this time so that it will have the opportunity to provide for the commission's consideration information on the proceedings of two very important upcoming scientific conferences which will include public debate directly relevant to USSTC's request," the letter said.

The Third International Conference on Smokeless Tobacco, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute and the Stockholm Centre of Public Health's Centre for Tobacco Prevention, will be held in September. The following month, the 4th European Conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco will take place.

"We've temporarily withdrawn our request for an advisory opinion. We do intend to resubmit it before the end of the year," said a UST spokesman.

39 anti-tobacco groups
In opposition to the tobacco company's initial request to the FTC, 39 anti-tobacco and public-health groups, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids wrote a letter to the FTC urging it to deny the tobacco company's request.

"We know it's a controversial subject. We fully expected that [opposition]," the spokesman said. "We also feel that as time goes on there's more and more information available about smokeless tobacco as an option, and for that reason it just made sense at this point, before any decision is made on the FTC's part, to take it back and resubmit it with the benefit of this additional information" from the two conferences.

In June, under fire from lawmakers and health officials for targeting teens in its advertising, UST pulled ads from consumer magazines including Sports Illustrated, Hot Rod, Motor Trend and Sporting News, pending a review of its marketing programs.

The company has not yet made any decision regarding its advertising, the spokesman said.

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