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WebMD takes heat for anti-smoking ad

WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. anti-smoking group has bashed WebMD for allowing an advertisement on their Web site that is a front for a major cigarette company.

The ad is part of a Philip Morris anti-smoking campaign that touts it as an "information resource" to stop smoking.

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But Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called into question the validity of an anti-smoking message from the country's No. 1 cigarette manufacturer.

CNN reports Myers' group said by allowing the ad to run on its Web site and direct patrons to the Philip Morris campaign's information, WebMD is violating its mission of "objective, trustworthy and timely health information."

The ad includes testimonials of why people quit smoking, although a disclaimer says they are actors.

Myers complained that the ad doesn't show real smokers or ex-smokers or people with the associated diseases connected to smoking.

As part of a five-company lawsuit deal in 1998, Philip Morris pledged $1.7 billion on youth anti-smoking advertising.

The ad will stop running on WebMD April 1 but will keep running on various health Web sites including CNN.com's health section.

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