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Snuffed out?

The Weekly Reader Corporation last week released a thick binder with copies of the 29 articles about the dangers of smoking that its publications have produced since 1992.

The move was designed to counter the negative publicity the venerable children's newsmagazine received for its Oct. 14 article titled "Do Cigarettes Have a Future?"

The article, which appeared in Weekly Reader's 5th-grade edition, focused on the "smokers' rights" movement. It discussed efforts to limit smoking and the potential impact on the economy of an outright ban on smoking, such as the elimination of tax revenue that "governments have used for such things as health care and school funding."

Anti-smoking groups were incensed. "It focuses on the poor tobacco industry that is going to go out of business," said Kevin Goebel, a spokesman for Americans for Non-Smokers' Rights, a Berkeley, Calif.-based group. "I really couldn't understand the whole motivation behind the article."

Sandra F. Maccarone, the editor in chief of Weekly Reader, said in an interview that the magazine "has probably done more than any other publica-tion for kids on the dangers of smoking."

The Oct. 14 article presents another side of the controversy, and critics ignored the fact that it was accompanied by a poster that shows the differences between the lungs of a smoker and a nonsmoker, she said. "The poster that went with the article was so powerful that there could be no question in anyone's mind where we stood," she added.

In a letter accompanying the packet of Weekly Reader articles, Ms. Maccarone asks, "If Weekly Reader were the vehicle for the tobacco industry's entree into schools, would we have published 29 articles that reported anti-smoking news?"

Meanwhile, Scholastic Inc., another classroom-magazine provider, got in touch with news outlets after the controversy to make clear that it does not publish Weekly Reader. The company, whose publications include Scholastic News, stressed that it has always taken a strong stand on the dangers of smoking.

--Mark Walsh

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