State child and health-care advocates Thursday blasted commercials aired by opponents of Sen. Orrin Hatch's insurance proposal for children that depict the conservative senator as a toady and fellow traveler of liberal Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Roz McGee, executive director of Utah Children, said the ads were underhanded, deceptive and most likely funded by tobacco interests opposed to Hatch's plan to provide for the health needs of uninsured children by increasing the federal cigarette tax.The sponsor of the ads, Citizens for a Sound Economy, a conservative group based in Washington, D.C., said it pays $35,000 a week to promote the radio spot.

"Let's not stand by and take this negative message," McGee said, urging people to call Hatch to express support for the bill. "And when you hear this dangerous, damaging advertising on your radio, call the station airing it and express your displeasure and disappointment."

Hatch's proposal would increase the federal cigarette tax by 43 cents a pack. That would raise about $30 billion over five years, $10 billion of which would be earmarked for deficit reduction. Another $20 billion would go to provide health insurance for poor children who are not covered by Medicaid.

Thousands of those children are like "Zachery Jones," a fictitious name used by Dr. Tom Metcalf at the news conference to discuss the case history of one of his patients.

The pediatrician said he has treated Zachery on three separate occasions for asthma in the past year. Each time, his parents, both of whom work, waited until the last possible moment to seek treatment because they have no health insurance.

"Two of the times I've treated him in the office, but he needed more treatment the day I saw him than if he came in the day before or even two days before," Metcalf said. "If any congressman has doubts about this bill, I'd invite him to come to my office and see what the lack of health insurance is doing to our children."

The ads in question, which are broadcast on local radio stations, feature a voice with a Bostonian accent praising Hatch for supporting "my, uh, his legislation." The ad implies the insurance measure would create a huge new entitlement program and that Hatch has adopted a political philosophy akin to first lady Hillary Clinton.

Barbara Alexander with the American Cancer Society said Hatch's legislation would not only help poor children, it would also further help restrict the sale of tobacco to children by dramatically increasing prices.