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A health coalition wants the Food and Drug Administration to treat two brands of low-nicotine cigarettes as drugs, accusing tobacco giant Philip Morris of false advertising. The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association planned to file a petition yesterday asking the FDA to place Philip Morris's "NEXT" and its Benson & Hedges "De-Nic" cigarettes under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

The cigarettes should be classified as a drug - a move that would require costly and time-consuming scientific testing - because the company's marketing has implied that those two brands have health benefits, the coalition said.

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The FDCA is designed to oversee the safety of food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics. While tobacco products are not covered under the law as long as they are sold only for smoking, the FDA has taken action involving tobacco when a health claim has been made or implied.

Matthew Myers, staff director for the coalition, said the advertising and marketing used by Philip Morris distinguishes its brands from others and makes it necessary to place them under federal regulation.

Philip Morris has advertised De-Nic cigarettes as a product that has had most of its nicotine removed, "much the way caffeine is naturally removed from coffee beans."

Such advertisements are "patently false and misleading," Mr. Myers said. "There is simply no scientific evidence that in this product the level of nicotine is so low that it is non-addictive."

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