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Resolve on Tobacco

He may not have seen it as such, but Vice President Al Gore's impassioned convention speech about the evils of nicotine addiction was a challenge not only to the American tobacco industry, but to his own administration, Congress, and state governments.

Reports have been circulating this week that the Clinton administration is considering a deal with tobacco firms. The still tentative bargain seems to be: voluntarily draw back on advertising and retailing operations aimed at youth, and the government will hold off on regulatory changes that could heighten tobacco litigation.

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Another possible deal involves state attorneys general who have been pursuing claims against cigarettemakers. Prospective GOP-brokered federal legislation would reportedly exchange yearly payments from the tobacco companies to states to offset the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses for a 15-year shield against lawsuits.

Resolve is the byword here. If an agreement with the companies could mean quicker implementation of advertising and sales restraints, it may be worth a try. But there shouldn't be any implication of easing up on the companies. Their economic, and political, clout remains substantial. Any deals to ease their legal burdens all too easily take on a bad odor.

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