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Study says the tobacco industry helped promote candy cigarettes

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LONDON (AP) — Internal tobacco industry documents recently made public confirm that tobacco companies cooperated with the makers of candy cigarettes in designing snacks that promoted smoking to children, according to new research.

The study of the documents by researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York found that some tobacco companies tolerated trademark infringement and granted confectioners permission to sell candy that used cigarette pack designs.

Industry documents made public in 1998 as part of a lawsuit settlement with the state of Minnesota form the basis of three reports published last week in the British Medical Journal.

Experts say the studies confirm common knowledge and long-held suspicions among some organizations working to curtail smoking.

"While not earth-shattering to people who have observed the tobacco industry over the years, the fact that these conclusions are based on the industry's own words makes them compelling to policy-makers, the public and . . . the courts," Stanton Glantz, a professor at the Institute of Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in a critique of the three studies.

Glantz, who was not connected with any of the studies, tracks the practices of the tobacco industry and the health effects of smoking.

A second study in the journal reported that executives of seven major tobacco companies met in England in 1977 to coordinate a worldwide "defensive strategy" on smoking issues. They agreed not to acknowledge the dangers of smoking, the study said.

The third study said the documents show the industry knew advertising does more than encourage smokers to switch brands, as they frequently claim. The papers show tobacco companies knew advertising also recruited new smokers, it said.

The University of Rochester study on candy cigarettes said the documents also show confectioners suppressed and altered a 1991 candy industry study indicating candy cigarettes could promote smoking to children.

The university had produced a study the previous year that found sixth graders who reported having used candy cigarettes were twice as likely to have also smoked tobacco cigarettes, regardless of whether their parents smoked.

The researchers said the tobacco documents describe how the confectionary industry contracted with a scientist one month later to study the relationship between candy cigarettes and smoking.

In the United States, legislation to ban candy cigarettes has been proposed unsuccessfully on a nationwide basis in 1970 and 1990, and in 11 states. North Dakota banned them in 1953, but that was repealed in 1967, the study said.