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Smoke in Their Eyes

Lessons in Movement Leadership from the Tobacco Wars

Michael Pertschuk

Publication Year: 2001

The classic American struggle between the public interest and corporate interests is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the decades-long struggle between the tobacco industry and advocates for public health. The failure of the "global settlement" legislation is now viewed by many public health experts as an historic missed opportunity, and in this extraordinary book, Smoke in Their Eyes, Michael Pertschuk brilliantly describes the forces brought to bear. A lifelong public health leader and tobacco control advocate, Pertschuk provides uncommon insight into the movement and its opposition. Questions that reveal themselves here can be applied to public advocacy as a whole: how can movement leaders gauge and best employ popular support? Who has legitimacy to speak on behalf of a particular public cause? And perhaps most crucially, how is it possible for those whose cause is a moral one to strike political compromise? With a narrative as compelling as the issues it raises, Smoke in Their Eyes will be of great interest to everyone from students of public advocacy and political science to general readers. "Nobody has a broader or clearer understanding of the worldwide antitobacco movement than Michael Pertschuk. His inside analysis of how its brightest hour suddenly turned into its darkest moment is an urgent object lesson, teaching that even those firmly on the side of the angels can be consumed by righteousness and self-importance. In this case, the good guys let themselves be blinded to the hard realities of the political process always lurking in the shadows. The U.S. public health community's failure to seriously blunt the perils of smoking--the nationís most destructive drug--when it had the tobacco industry reeling is a national tragedy that needed to be chronicled."--Richard Kluger, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ashes to Ashes

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Sound and sober contemporary political history by historians and journalists is not rare, but lively and evenhanded storytelling of political struggles by those who have lived them is. And historical analyses of landmark political challenges that actually yield practical lessons for those who might face such challenges in the future are even less...

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pp. 1-9

Movements born of adversity have a hard time with success. And movement leaders, hardened to decades of lost battles, do not easily adapt to the prospects of victory. This is not exactly a new story. It happens to the best of movements, and it happened to the tobacco control movement in 1997 and 1998. To many Americans outside the tobacco...

Part I: Leading toward Settlement

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1. Thinking the Unthinkable

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pp. 13-20

Kluger’s voice carried great authority. His mammoth, definitive chronicle of America’s hundred-year cigarette wars, Ashes to Ashes, was about to be published. It was destined for the Pulitzer. In it, he had unmasked Philip Morris’s mendacity and given fair due to us hounds who had nipped at Big Tobacco’s heels. He was, to be sure, a historian...

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2. Why Matt Myers?

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pp. 21-27

Why was Matt Myers the logical person to turn to for a prudent assessment of the Kluger proposition? Because no one working on tobacco control in Washington knew more about what was going on, had worked longer or harder at thwarting the tobacco lobby, or had displayed such sober judgment. For more than fifteen years, Matt had served as the...

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3. Sinking the Unthinkable

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pp. 28-35

In the months that followed the April 1996 publication of Dick Kluger’s immodest proposal, and the hint delivered shortly thereafter to the Financial Times of London by R. J. Reynolds’s new CEO, Steven Goldstone, that he might well be open to a negotiated resolution of all tobacco...

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4. The Search for Common Ground Begins

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pp. 36-39

By late fall 1996, the Scruggs-Moore settlement initiative was dead, or at least stunned. But Matt Myers knew that the economic and political winds blowing toward settlement were still strong. The industry was still under pressure from Wall Street to get rid of the nettlesome cases—and its pariah status. In August 1996, just as the Scruggs-Moore...

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5. Why Stan Glantz and Julia Carol?

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pp. 40-48

In contrast to the representatives of the American Medical Association, the Cancer Society, and the other large voluntary health associations, Stanton P. Glantz, a teaching professor at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco and the author of the leading text on medical statistics, represented no formally organized constituency...

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6. “Everyone” Agreed!

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pp. 49-52

Matt’s hopes for the November 18, 1996, consensus-seeking meeting were modest: “I had no faith that the public health community was prepared to make choices or that they had thought through their priorities. But I believed, perhaps naively, that if we could cut through the...

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7. The Real Leadership?

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pp. 53-58

Back in Washington, Matt shared his misgivings with Bill Novelli, the president of the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids. Novelli was impatient; he had little respect for Glantz and Carol, whom he viewed as unthinking zealots. And he thought Matt’s effort to engage them in a constructive dialogue was not only futile but endowed them with...

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8. A Suspect Consensus

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pp. 59-63

In a series of conference calls in December 1996 and January 1997, supplemented by one-on-one conversations, Matt Myers and Bill Novelli raised a series of hypothetical questions with the leaders of health voluntary organizations, essentially the same hypothetical questions Matt had raised in New York. Would they accept...

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9. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

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pp. 64-69

The first call came in late March, just before April Fool’s Day, from George Mitchell—former federal judge, Maine senator, Senate Democratic majority leader, international peacemaker, and symbol of rectitude. Mitchell had been recruited by Washington’s latest bulging firm...

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10. Day One: Four Meetings, Two Directions

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pp. 70-77

The secret meeting of Geoffrey Bible, Steven Goldstone, and the lawyers and state attorneys general who would form the nucleus of the negotiators was first scheduled for April 3, 1997, at 2:00 P.M. at the Sheraton Hotel in Crystal City, Virginia, across the Potomac River from D.C., and next to Washington National Airport, where the flock of tobacco...

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11. One Stays, One Stays Out

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pp. 78-86

Matt had agreed only to come to the next day’s meeting, and to listen. He had not yet committed himself to an active role in formal negotiations. But that second meeting brought concrete concessions, pathbreaking concessions. Arthur Golden opened the meeting by declaring, flatly, that the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel would go—if not the...

Part II: The Settlement

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pp. 87-103

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12. Progress

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pp. 89-93

Matt returned to the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids office late Friday (April 4), after the close of that second day of negotiations. He reported to Center president Bill Novelli on both the day’s events and his conviction that the industry was prepared to make major concessions on all of the key public health issues. Bill, as he would remain...

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13. Betrayed?

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pp. 94-102

Matt left Chicago that Wednesday night, April 9, 1997, to make his expected appearance at the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids’ first annual Youth Advocate of the Year gala, and to play an active role in the next day’s series of national events skewering the tobacco companies—the Center-sponsored “Kick Butts Day.” The negotiations were still secret...

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14. Slings and Arrows

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pp. 103-109

Stan Glantz’s thunderbolts and Julia Carol’s expressions of betrayal stung, especially where they struck a responsive chord in Matt’s own ceaseless self-questioning. Glantz’s diatribes were a harbinger of deep trouble ahead, when his picador-sharp rhetoric and his disdain for the significance of the public health gains in the emerging settlement terms...

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15. With Friends Like These...

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pp. 110-112

The fury of Matt’s critics was matched by the tepidness of his defenders. Where were the public voices leaping to Matt’s defense from those public health leaders who had encouraged and supported Matt’s presence in the negotiations from the very beginning—and continued to do so privately? Muffled. Where were the public voices of those...

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16. The Line Hardens

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pp. 113-118

Just as the first leaks of the negotiations were fueling activists’ distrust and anger, Bill Novelli’s earnest entreaty to a meeting in Washington of state tobacco control advocates, was, in essence: “Trust us, we’re talking to your leaders.” They didn’t. They thought they were the movement’s leaders....

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17. A Divorce in the Family

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pp. 119-122

One was Russ Sciandra, for many years a strong and skilled tobacco control advocate within the New York State Health Department, until forced out by the political appointees of newly elected Republican governor George Pataki, whose election campaign had been generously...

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18. The Nicotine Fix

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pp. 123-130

Whatever his inclinations, Matt had little time and less focused energy, as the negotiations moved into May 1997, to reach out to disturbed but still open-minded activists in the field like Karla Sneegas and Tim Filler; no time to explain patiently how he had come to be at the negotiating table, why he had proceeded as he had, and within what...

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19. “I Say It’s Immunity, and I Say the Hell with It!”

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pp. 131-141

Indeed, embedded in the core principles that Matt had drafted, and that even those most open to settlement had embraced, was this antiimmunity plank: “The rights of victims of the tobacco industry to seek compensation for the injuries they have suffered should not be abridged and the tobacco industry should not be immunized from accountability...

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20. “When to Walk Away”

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pp. 142-145

Carol’s wasn’t the only friendly voice urging Matt to walk away from the negotiations. The two staff members who were his lobbying team at the Center, Anne Ford and Michael Kirshenbaum, became increasingly insistent that it was in the public interest—and his own interest...

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21. The Two Ks to the Rescue

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pp. 146-152

As the promise—or threat—of a concluded settlement drew nigh, Jeff Birnbaum of Fortune Magazine told me he had concluded that legislation embodying the settlement would pass only if it drew the support of at least two of the “three Ks”—Kessler, Koop, and Kennedy. Ted Kennedy was...

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22. The Deal Is Struck—and Stricken

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pp. 153-158

It was late in the day, June 20, 1997, when the negotiators reached final agreement and convened a press conference. The tobacco industry negotiators stayed away from the public announcement, fearing they would sour the public reception with their tainted presence. Mike Moore, Chris Gregoire, and the other negotiating attorneys general...

Part III: The Rise and Fall of the McCain Bill

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23. The Struggle for Clinton’s Nod

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pp. 161-172

Bruce Lindsay at the White House had been briefed in person at every stage of the negotiations and knew every detail of the settlement’s terms; now he reviewed the actual drafts of the settlement agreement. There were no surprises to the White House. With this information, Lindsay promised Mike Moore that President Clinton would speak out supporting...

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24. Unity under Clinton’s Umbrella?

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pp. 173-175

President Clinton unveiled a broad policy statement embracing “Five Principles” on September 17, in a press statement followed by a White House ceremony, surrounded by the lead attorneys general and virtually all the prominent public health leaders....

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25. Things Fall Apart—the Center Cannot Hold

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pp. 176-185

Clinton’s principles and the choreographed White House ceremony tiptoed silently around the gargantuan issue of liability concessions to the industry, allowing both anti-immunity firebrands and public health– firsters to read support for their position into the presidential vacuum. But Clinton was not quite silent. When he met with the press after the...

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26. The Moving Kessler-Koop Line

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pp. 186-193

To be sure, neither Kessler nor Koop were ever comfortable with the settlement negotiations or the prospect of concessions leading to peace with the industry. Yet, each was initially focused on exacting the most formidable public health provisions possible while grudgingly accepting the necessity that some form of liability relief...

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27. The All-Inclusive Anti-Immunity Club

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pp. 194-200

In January 1998, as congressional leaders contemplated what exactly to do about tobacco and the settlement, a surreal, bipartisan consensus emerged—not about what to do, but about what not to do: standing together (metaphorically) were Stan Glantz and Newt Gingrich ($113,500 in tobacco lobby contributions since 1991); Ted Kennedy...

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28. McCain to the Rescue

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pp. 201-206

For all the bipartisan rhetorical fist clenching and teeth gnashing at the perfidy of the tobacco industry, and for all the talk of irresistible momentum toward fierce, uncompromising legislation straitjacketing Big Tobacco, nothing was moving in the Congress. Matt’s fears that his fellow advocates’ uncompromising righteousness, congressional political...

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29. A Cliffhanger on Liability

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pp. 207-210

What was not okay with Matt in the draft bill were the liability provisions, which still included much of what the public health community had found so obnoxious in the settlement itself. As late as Monday, March 30, the Wall Street Journal was reporting that Chairman McCain had met the demands of “conservative committee...

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30. Not Good Enough

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pp. 211-216

Matt’s sense of obligation as a lobbyist was clear and strong: When you make demands upon a legislator, he or she knows that you are prepared to attack if those demands are not met. But if your demands are met, then you need also to be prepared to stand up in support. It was a similar sense of obligation that earlier kept Matt from walking...

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31. Worse Than Nothing!

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pp. 217-219

And to make sure no one missed the message, Nader’s Public Citizen issued a broadside to all SAVE LIVES members, with the headline: “A CAP ON LIABILITY = IMMUNITY FOR BIG TOBACCO. Rob Weissman and Russell Mokhiber wrote an article for the Nader-sponsored Multinational Monitor, delineating the many “reasons why...

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32. Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner

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pp. 220-225

The accusation of Nader’s colleagues, Rob Weissman and Russell Mokhiber, that “the industry loves the McCain bill” proved dead wrong. The aversion to the bill of Koop and his kindred spirits in the tobacco control movement was mirrored by the industry leaders who had accepted the June 20 settlement. So, too, by their Wall Street investors...

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33. The Window of Opportunity Slams Shut

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pp. 226-233

House leaders? What had happened to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who only three months earlier had vowed, “No one is going to get to the left of me on tobacco?” What had diverted the House Speaker who, earlier in the year, came upon Dr. Koop in the House chambers and greeted him warmly: “Just give me a bill, and we’ll pass it.” The...

Part IV: Lessons from the Settlement and Its Aftermath

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34. What Was Gained? What Was Lost?

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pp. 237-248

What was lost when the June 20, 1997, settlement and the McCain bill died? Not much, judged Julia Carol, Stan Glantz, Ralph Nader, and John Garrison, among others. Indeed, its death was a “victory” for tobacco control, wrote Carol; a “Pyrrhic victory for Big Tobacco,” wrote Nader. As for Drs. Koop and...

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35. And the Rest of the Globe?

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pp. 249-254

In grandiose style, Dick Scruggs, the lawyer-architect of the the attorneys general’s cases, had christened their negotiations in the spring of 1997 the pursuit of “a global settlement.” In the U.S. context, of course, it was indeed global—it encompassed all the state and private lawsuits...

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36. Thirteen Ways to Lead a Movement Backward

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pp. 255-279

Thus far, I have largely withheld my own explicit judgments on the dysfunctional behavior of too many of the key leaders and activists upon whom this narrative has focused. That reticence ends with this chapter. As for Matt Myers, I devote the whole of Chapter 38 to his scorecard....

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37. The Wrong Leaders for the Right Moment

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pp. 280-284

At the close of this gloomy tale, it may seem odd that the tobacco control movement remains the envy of advocates in sister social change movements, from gun control to universal health care. After all, if one looks at cigarette-smoking rates and trends in 1965 and then in the year 2000, some fifty million Americans who do not now smoke would...

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38. Engaged in the Work of Democracy

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pp. 285-291

Still I have tried throughout this book, if not always to keep my judgments at arm’s length, at least to allow Matt and the other key players to have their say in their own words. In citing published sources and direct interviews, I did not scant Matt’s keenest critics. And I have...

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Conclusion: With a Little Bit of Luck

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pp. 293-298

In the last chapters, I have argued that the collective leadership of the tobacco control movement, heroes all, nonetheless blew the opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, Big Tobacco’s lobbying and propaganda machine, and its indentured politicians, undermined the McCain bill....

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Afterword: Lessons of the Tobacco Wars

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pp. 299-304

But what if the political process itself—from the media of public discussion, to the political parties, to the means of getting elected, to the making of laws and policies—is dominated by special interests wielding overbearing wealth and power?...

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pp. 305-309

As this book took shape, I began sharing drafts with several veteran advocates not involved in tobacco control, leaders of other progressive movements who had in common a track record of concrete achievement— good laws, enforced and effective over time—to match their passion. I knew, of course, that the conflict I had recorded among leaders...

Chronology of Key Events

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pp. 311-312

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pp. 313-316

I begin with those key actors whose roles are central to my narrative, most of whom readily agreed to be interviewed, several, more than once. Among them, I reserve special gratitude for those who knew that I did not share their views of the events and that I might well be critical of them, but who nonetheless spoke openly: David Kessler...


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pp. 317-327

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591494
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826513908
Print-ISBN-10: 0826513905

Page Count: 356
Publication Year: 2001

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Antismoking movement -- United States.
  • Tobacco industry -- Government policy -- United States.
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