Tobacco Looks For A Way Out

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CHICAGO: In an effort to convince a skeptical public that reaching a broad tobacco settlement is more important than pressing many individual wars against the industry, state attorneys outlined a proposed deal to 100 doctors and anti-tobacco activists Wednesday. Agreements reached with the industry so far are substantial, including: a ban on smoking in workplaces and public areas; a ban on all cigarette advertising; a program to gradually reduce teen smoking, reaching 30 percent in five years, 50 percent in seven years and 60 percent in 10 years; an industry-financed multi-billion dollar smoking cessation program; FDA regulation of the industry, and labels that read "smoking kills" on cigarette packs. "What's on the table now goes beyond what any single legal victory could achieve,'' said Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. "If every state won their lawsuits tomorrow, we could not have the historic impact on children and on the public health that appears possible through these discussions.'' While the meeting was scheduled by that American Medical Association, however, members of the American Lung Association are lobbying hard against a settlement, calling it a bailout for big tobacco: "The tobacco industry has never demonstrated an ability to negotiate in good faith or live up to its promises,'' said association chief executive John Garrison. As the industry hastens to reach a settlement, pressure to curb and punish its practices continues to mount: on Wednesday, even as the FTC charged R.J. Reynolds with unfair advertising practices, charging that its Joe Camel campaign targets children, the state of Florida decided to dump $825 million worth of tobacco stocks invested in its retirement plan. In July, the first class-action suit against the industry is set to begin in Mississippi.