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CONGRESSMAN, LAWYERS SUE TO TAKE THE WRAPS OFF PHILIP MORRIS PAPERS

When Philip Morris Co. settled its $10 billion libel suit against ABC-TV this week, it got to put back in the company vaults thousands of internal documents about nicotine in its cigarettes that ABC had planned to unveil in court.

Thursday, a congressman and attorneys for a massive class-action lawsuit moved separately to release those documents to the public, arguing they could prove whether the world's largest tobacco company manipulates nicotine specifically to hook smokers."There is no question more important than the motive question," Rep. Henry Waxman wrote Philip Morris Chairman Geoffrey Bible on Thursday.

The papers are under seal by order of a Richmond, Va., judge. Court arguments by ABC and Philip Morris lawyers indicate the thousands of documents not only detail how Philip Morris controls nicotine in cigarettes, but why.

Waxman challenged the company to release the documents to the public immediately. "If our goal is the pursuit of the truth, there can be no justification for withholding such critical documents from congressional and public scrutiny," he said.

Philip Morris declined comment.

Under the settlement, ABC apologized Monday night for reporting that Philip Morris "spikes" its cigarettes with large amounts of nicotine from outside sources. The network also must return the documents to Philip Morris.

But ABC officials were served subpoenas Thursday ordering them to turn over the documents for use in the Castano federal lawsuit, said Washington attorney John P. Coale. The Castano case, filed in New Orleans on behalf of every smoker and former smoker, accuses tobacco companies of manipulating nicotine to hook them.

The subpoenas give ABC officials 10 days to comply.

In full-page ads in the nation's largest newspapers Thursday, Philip Morris touted ABC's apology and said it was "ready to accept" apologies from other people who have made similar allegations.

"Here's all we ask: When charges are leveled against us, don't take them at face value," Philip Morris wrote. "Instead, consider the information we provide and then - just as importantly - subject the charges themselves to the scrutiny and skepticism they deserve. Fairness and a sincere interest in the truth demand no less."

Waxman seized on the ads to make his point, arguing that fairness demands Philip Morris let Americans read the documents and judge for themselves if the company told the truth when it denied manipulating nicotine or even that cigarettes are addictive.

ABC refused to apologize for also reporting that tobacco companies use other methods to manipulate nicotine to keep people smoking. Two weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration agreed there was enough evidence of such manipulation for the agency to regulate cigarettes and chewing tobacco as devices that deliver addictive nicotine.