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The Food and Drug Administration and the White House should work together to produce the strongest regulations possible to reduce the number of young Americans who start smoking.

It has been a year since the FDA declared the nicotine in tobacco an addictive drug, and tobacco and advertising companies have been fighting regulation of their products ever since.Unfortunately, the objective of those companies - to make money by getting and keeping young people addicted to tobacco - must be overridden by the goal of health and longer lives for American teenagers.

Last August the FDA proposed strong advertising restrictions aimed at getting rid of ploys designed to appeal to teens, such as Joe Camel ads placed in teen magazines. The agency also proposed a ban on cigarette vending machines and a requirement that tobacco companies pay $150 million a year to educate teenagers to avoid their products.

Such regulations are desperately needed to counteract the efforts of tobacco companies to lure impressionable teens to take up the smoking or chewing habit. Though cigarette makers loudly deny that their advertising campaigns are directed at youth, evidence to the contrary is obvious.

Since nine of 10 smokers became addicted before the age of 20, it only makes sense that tobacco companies would direct advertising at a young audience. The Joe Camel icon appeals to youth, and other strategies are even more predatory.

A study in California shows there are significantly more tobacco advertisements in stores near schools than in schools farther away. There are also more tobacco ads near candy counters in stores near schools, and they are more often set below three feet in those stores, where children can see them.

Research shows 3,000 children in their teen years and younger begin smoking every day, and 1,000 of them will eventually die of smoking-related diseases. Tobacco kills more people each year than AIDS, alcohol, auto accidents, suicide, cocaine and heroin use combined.

The time has come to stop giving tobacco companies free rein to act irresponsibly in enticing young people to smoke. Cigarettes and other tobacco products should be declared controlled substances and treated like the deadly drugs they are.

It's also time elected leaders, including those in Utah, quit accepting donations from tobacco companies. Take money out of the equation, and the only things left to consider are the lives and health of millions of people.