The people who brought you last week's blitzkrieg of antismoking billboards may have an unlikely forebear: Adolf Hitler. In his forthcoming book, "The Nazi War on Cancer" (Princeton University Press), Penn State history professor Robert N. Proctor suggests that Nazi researchers were the first to recognize the connection between cancer and cigarettes. The prevailing view was that British and American scientists established the lung-cancer link during the early 1950s. In fact, says Proctor, "the Nazis conducted world-class studies in this field." But their findings, because of the abhorrent medical practices used by the regime, were ignored. Hitler, a teetotaling vegetarian, believed healthy living advanced the master race; Jews, Gypsies and smokers soiled the purity of the nation. The Führer even boasted that his kicking the habit in 1919 helped bring about the "salvation of the German people." Hence the Allies saw the Third Reich's campaign against smoking as the product of fascism, not science. "It is still taboo to say anything positive about Nazi research," says Proctor, whose earlier work exposed the unspeakable acts of doctor-torturers like Josef Mengele. Not that the Third Reich was averse to using nicotine to help the Nazi cause -- the Führer and his cronies continued to supply tobacco to their troops throughout the war.