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Ad Lobbies Tackle Tobacco Bill

Advertising lobby groups stepped up pressure last week to halt the progress of a bipartisan bill with sweeping cigarette-advertising restrictions.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Greg Ganske, R-Iowa; John Dingell, D-Mich.; and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., lets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco. Under FDA rules, written in 1996 and challenged by the tobacco industry, cigarette ads would be limited to black-and-white "tombstone" formats; outdoor ads near schools or playgrounds would be banned. Ads could only be in publications with fewer than 2 million readers under 18, along with health warnings.

"When Joe Camel is associated with cigarettes by 30 percent of 3-year-olds and nearly 90 percent of 5-year-olds, we know that marketing efforts directed at children are very successful," Ganske said.

The Freedom to Advertise Coalition, representing the American Association of Advertising Agencies and other groups, sent a letter to a key House subcommittee to stop the bill from becoming an amendment to a children's-health bill. "The proposed amendment threatens an unprecedented suppression of truthful advertising, a misdirected effort to address a public health concern and a blatantly unconstitutional invasion of well-settled commercial speech freedoms," it read.

Hal Shoup, a 4A's executive vice president, said, "This bill would call for Congress to enact everything we have been fighting against."


Wendy Melillo, April 17, 2000

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