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KCBS Resumes Airing of Anti-Tobacco Commercial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles television station KCBS Channel 2 reversed itself Monday and decided to resume airing a tough state-sponsored anti-tobacco commercial, the CBS-owned outlet said.

The commercial--which the station aired for five weeks before pulling it last week--portrays a man in a suit pulling fish from a lake, while a narrator explains, “The tobacco industry knows that the more nicotine their cigarettes have, the more hooked you’ll be.” For effect, the man fishing is shown with a mouth full of darkly stained teeth.

The spot, which is being broadcast by stations across the state, is part of a campaign sponsored by the California Department of Health Services, and is funded by Proposition 99 cigarette taxes.

KCBS’ original decision to pull the 30-second ad came as its parent, CBS, decided to withdraw an interview with an ex-tobacco industry executive that was scheduled to air on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” show. CBS lawyers had feared that the executive’s former employer might have sued the network if the interview had aired.

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KCBS’ decision to cancel the commercial, titled “Hooked,” was widely reported over the weekend.

On Monday, the station issued a brief statement quoting its general manager, Bill Applegate, who modified the original explanation. “Contrary to early erroneous reports,” he said, “there was never any decision to cancel the spot. We only wished to give it an extra level of review because we thought some of the copy lines were open to misunderstanding.”

Station spokeswoman Sybil MacDonald would not elaborate, declining to say whether there had been complaints about the initial decision to pull the spot.

In acknowledging Friday that the commercial had been pulled, MacDonald had said the station on its own re-evaluated the spot and decided to kill it after concluding that there was a problem with the line that says “the more nicotine cigarettes have, the more hooked you’ll be.”

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“Management felt this implied [nicotine] spiking, which has been an extremely contentious issue,” MacDonald said last week.

State Health Department Director Kim Belshe, who had criticized KCBS for pulling the ad, hailed the reinstatement, saying: “We continue to believe this is a very powerful and effective advertisement.”


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