International Herald Tribune, June 23 Washington Post One Big Battle May Be Won, But Tobacco War Is Far From Over By Marc Fisher and John Schwartz Washington Post Service WASHINGTONThe challenge is monumentalthe dismantling of a culture. Using money, media and medicine, anti smoking forces are trying to undo the work of centuries of literature and seven decades of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, to eliminate the automatic connection between a kiss and a curling column of smoke, between a shout of rebellion and the flick of a butt. The tobacco industry is willing to bet $368.5 billion that links so deeply embedded in the collective consciousness simply cannot be broken. The settlement between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general, though far from final, may turn out to be "the most historic public health achievement in history," as the Mississippi attorney general, Michael Moore, called it. But antitobacco activists, cigarette makers and historians of the habit say such hyperbole is premature: The future of the cigarette is largely shrouded in smoke. From C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general, to the historian Richard Kluger, those who have studied the savvy seductions and addictions that make up the culture of smoking say the deal is no panacea, but may well be a turning point. "Viewed from 35,000 feet, this is the biggest effort ever to regulate a recalcitrant industry " Dr. Koop said. "Will it be good for public healthy Yes. The Tobacco Institute will be gone, but the tobacco lobby will still be there. And they will never stop." "Smoking ain't going to go away," said Mr. Kluger, whose 1996 chronicle of America's cigarette wars, "Ashes to Ashes," prescribes a settlement virtually identical to the one announced Friday. "But the cigarette itself may become much less of a killer." The 68page agreementwhich still must be approved by President Bill Clinton and Congressproposes to govern everything from how much nicotine is in a cigarette to how much tobacco cornpanies would have to pay in fines if teenage smoking does not decline precipitously. By increasing cigarette prices as much as $1 a pack, the companies would raise money to compensate smokers for cigarette related illness, reimburse states for their smokingrelated medical expenses, pay for health insurance for children who lack coverage and finance antismoking campaigns. The plan would tag cigarette packs with bigger, bolder warnings and drastically reduce the industry's marketing, eliminating the Marlboro Man, Joe Camel, product placement in movies and sponsorship of sports events. But the most audacious aim of the deal is to freeze and eventually supplant the deep cultural affinity for tobacco in the United States, to so stigmatize the cigarette that, 500 years after European explorers picked up the habit from American Indians, the allure of smoke would no longer symbolize individualism, sophistication and romance. "The tobacco industry spent close to $50 billion in the past 20 years on image," said Gregory Connolly, the physician who is director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, the nation's most aggressive public antismoking effort. "To think that a ban on Joe Camel and billboards is going to undo that is naive. This is an investment that's going to have a longterm effect." Under the agreement, the elimination of the addictive chemical within tobacco will be possible in 12 years a development that cigarette makers have warred against for decades, even as they quietly prepared for it. A decade ago, Philip Morris Companies spent more than $300 million on a factory designed to remove nicotine from cigarettes much like decaffeinating eliminates that drug from coffee. The resulting product, DeNic, flopped in test marketing: Without the nicotine kick, the cigarettes had all the appeal of smoking wheat. But in Chattanooga, Tennesse, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is testing the opposite approach with Eclipseall the nicotine and almost none of the carcinogens. Smokers say it tastes like an "ultralight" brand and far better than the company's earlier lowsmoke effort, the disastrous Premier. The new battlegrounds will be here pitting tobacco industry financed public health campaigns against the industry's own new productsand on the nicotine front. Reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettesand perhaps eliminating it entirelymay create a new form of American addict, antismoking activists warned. "We'll have nicotine addicts who rely on the very things we use to wean people from smokingpatches, gum, nasal sprays," Dr. Koop said. "But if you eliminate the smoke and the carcinogens, you're ahead of the game." From the perspective of the tobacco companies, the settlementcoming after 33 years of devastating publicity is a chance to cleanse their multinational, diversified conglomerates of the lingering odor of cigarette smoke. In the case of Philip Morris, which makes everything from Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to Miller beer, more than half its business is outside the United States. Tobacco provides a gusher of cash that keeps the companies healthy. If the settlement dramatically reduces the danger of massive judgments against the cigarette makers, their stocks are expected to shoot up in value. And to counter the expected onslaught of antismoking messages, the industry can rely on the proven staying power of this century's procigarette images and slogans. Just think of the television ads that are part of the American vocabulary 26 years after they were banned. Some antismoking crusaders worry that warning labels and educational ads may actually backfire. In Massachusetts, for example, teenage smoking rose by 10 percent in the first three years of an antismoking campaign. From the mid1970's decision by Johnny Carson to hide his cigarette under his television desk, to the 1990s phenomenon of smokers standing alone, staring into the sidewalks as they huddle outside office buildings, the stigmatization of smoking has reached an apparent zenith. The United States has become an "island of extremism" on tobacco control said the chief executive of Philip Morris Geoffrey Bible. Cigarette manufacturers are free to seek easier profits in more friendly foreign markets, such as Europe, where airplanes and restaurants still choked with smoke elicit nary a complaint, or Asia, where the smoking population is still expanding.