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Big Tobacco's Fire Sale

The ink was barely dry on its "buy two, get one free" deal when Marlboro came out with another offer, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.

Now smokers can buy three packs and get two for free.

It's the boldest move yet in the biggest price war among cigarette-makers in years. Retailers and distributors are hoping just to keep up with the displays.

"They're trying to push as much product as they can get out," notes one distributor.

Smokers, meanwhile, are snapping up bargains they're not likely to see ever again.

The reason for the big sales push, analysts say, is that cigarette makers are trying to lock up their share of the marketplace before billboard advertising, in-store displays, and sports events promotions may be limited under a new agreement about to be reached with the states' Attorneys General.

It's no coincidence that a price war strongly appeals to the very customers that cigarette makers now need the most, says tobacco critic Matt Meyers.

"When the tobacco industry comes up with promotions that give them two for one, three for one, or anything like that, they are focusing on poor young people, people who may still be experimenting, making the decision on whether to smoke or not," he says.

And there's evidence the strategy is working. Smoking among young people has climbed 73 percent over the past eight years, a trend critics say corresponds to the popularity of such figures as Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man, who figure so prominently in the current campaigns.

This is one price war the smoking public may come to regret, however, because the cost of addiction is about to go up.

Cigarette prices have already jumped 27 percent in the past year to pay for the industry's running battle with government regulators. Once the current promotions end, most analysts expect them to rise again.

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