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'Youth' rhymes with 'Truth'

What is intended as the largest single national anti-smoking initiative starts today amid continuing debate over some commercials that are to be part of the campaign.

The initiative is sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation in Washington, which was financed by the recent $206 billion settlement reached by 46 state attorneys general and the tobacco industry. The advertising, marketing and public relations campaign --developed by teenagers in partnership with Madison Avenue professionals - is meant to "unsell" cigarette smoking to young people ages 12 to 17 by countering the tactics the tobacco makers have long used to peddle their best-selling brands.

The initial element of the initiative, which will have a first-year budget of about $185 million, is a Web site that is expected to go up today at www.thetruth.com. "Truth" is the theme of the campaign, with the word presented as if it was the name of a product being pitched to counteract the effect of cigarette advertising on teenagers. "We are launching a brand, and the brand has a name, and the name is 'Truth'," said Dr. Healton, who is also a professor of public health at Columbia University.

The foundation has had some difficulty in gaining acceptance for its spots from the three largest broadcast TV networks - ABC, CBS and NBC - which initially rejected concepts submitted for approval in the form of story boards by Crispin Porter and by Arnold Communications in Boston, a unit of Snyder Communications that is also a member of the consortium.

"We're very optimistic our advertising will clear the networks," Dr. Healton said. "It's my understanding from the people we're working with that what we're going through with the networks is the same process of negotiations that others go through."

The campaign will also include print ads, radio commercials, a youth meeting in Seattle in June and a "Truth truck tour" that will travel across the country, concluding at the World Tobacco Conference in Chicago in August. The initiative, which is to supplement anti-smoking campaigns at the state level, is scheduled to be financed for $1.5 billion through 2004.


Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. February 4, 2000.

Copyright © 2000 The New York Times.. All rights reserved.