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Claim: Anti-Smoking Ads Not Working

Youth anti-smoking ads made by tobacco companies have mixed messages and may end up encouraging kids to smoke, a public health expert testified for smokers seeking punitive damages.

"In some ways I think these commercials are not only ineffective but they're actually sending out messages that may promote tobacco among kids," Dr. Michael Siegel, an expert on cigarette promotions, testified Tuesday.

He was speaking for 300,000 to 500,000 sick Florida smokers seeking a multibillion-dollar award to punish the nation's five biggest cigarette makers for decades of misconduct.

The jury already has ruled against the industry and awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three smokers representing the class.

Tobacco attorneys fought an attempt by smokers to show anti-smoking commercials that Siegel considers effective. Circuit Judge Robert Kaye previewed 10 minutes of commercials and allowed the jury to see a few of them.

Siegel derided Philip Morris' $74 million youth anti-smoking program compared to the industry's $6 billion annual advertising and promotion budget.

"In reality, I don't think this company is spending a penny in a true effort to try to get youth to stop smoking," he said. "It's either ineffective or it's actually going to programs or to advertising that's actually going to make smoking more appealing to youth."

On cross-examination, Philip Morris attorney Brad Lerman walked Siegel though examples of the company's anti-smoking efforts, giving jurors a preview of testimony from company witnesses during the defense case.

The testimony challenges the industry's theme that it has changed its ways since the trial began in 1998 and should not be required to pay more than its $254 billion commitment to state lawsuit settlements.

The defendants are Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc. and the industry's Council for Tobacco Research and Tobacco Institute.

By Catherine Wilson