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Tobacco execs admit smoking dangers

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 -- In a rare admission, top tobacco executives are admitting that smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases. Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says those admissions, in letters from RJR Nabisco Inc., Philip Morris Companies Inc. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., are 'a positive development.'

Hatch says that bodes well for congressional action on a proposed tobacco settlement. Among other things, the settlement calls for tougher warning labels on cigarettes and other tobacco products to discourage youth smoking. The letters Hatch released today answer questions raised by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., during hearings on the proposed settlement. RJR Nabisco executives backed the warnings, admitting, 'use of tobacco products carries with it serious health risks.' Philip Morris said, 'There is a substantial body of evidence which supports the judgment that cigarette smoking plays a causal role in the development of lung cancer and other diseases in smokers.' Brown & Williamson agreed there appears to be a link but said, 'There remain significant information gaps' about the relationship between smoking and disease. Philip Morris quibbled with the conclusion that nicotine is addictive, contending it has 'mild pharmacological effects' that meet some definition of addictive. Brown & Williamson argued the definition of addiction health officials now apply to cigarettes would also apply to coffee and tea. RJR Nabisco did not comment on the definition of addiction. ---

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