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MARLBORO TEAM DESERVES A HEALTHY POUNDING

A new promotional campaign from Philip Morris has announced the formation of the Marlboro Adventure Team. The adventure team is the latest gimmick cooked up by the company to make smoking cigarettes look glamorous and fun, especially to children. The campaign tells smokers to collect empty Marlboro packs to redeem for adventure team gear.

Recently, my 10-year-old son received his Marlboro Adventure Team Catalog in the mail, complete with coupons. He thinks the gear in the catalog is cool. What 10-year-old wouldn't be impressed with a neat looking baseball cap, a snake embroidered T-shirt, a backpack, an inflatable kayak and even a Swiss army knife -- all, of course, with the Marlboro logo.

The problem is, a person needs to smoke a lot of cigarettes to collect enough empty packs to get the gear advertised in the catalog. And, of course, there's that little matter that the cigarettes are lethal and addictive.

Most of the Marlboro smokers I see at our hospital have no need for an inflatable kayak, backpack or any of the other gear advertised in the adventure team catalog. These Philip Morris customers are into a different type of gear -- hospital gowns, oxygen tanks, IV poles, wheelchairs and coffins.

The fact that Philip Morris gets away with this type of deceptive advertising is just another example of the privileged status the cigarette industry enjoys.

The cigarette companies are the only business granted protection from lawsuits by its customers simply because Congress requires a warning label on the product. The fear of litigation is a powerful force that keeps advertisers honest and candid; this restraint does not apply to cigarette companies.

Congress should revoke the federal cigarette labeling act and let the cigarette companies walk the same legal turf as the rest of corporate America.

K. MICHAEL CUMMINGS
Director, Smoking Control Program
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Buffalo

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