BIG TOBACCO HAS OPENED A new front against antismoking forces. First came those Philip Morris ads picturing smokers puffing while perched on plane wings. Now there's an academic study, sponsored by Brown & Williamson Tobacco, linking efforts to curb smoking with the evils of Prohibition.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Prohibition, and the nation's third-largest cigarette maker recently unveiled the study at "21," once a Manhattan speakeasy. In the study, Kean College (N.J.) historian Mark Lender says legal crackdowns on butts, including tax hikes, will bring black markets and organized crime. His evidence: Canada, which saw smuggling from the U.S. after a huge 1993 tax boost made a pack of cigs cost up to $5. The tax was rolled back last year, and the smuggling subsided. Lender, who is billing B&W $9,000 for the study, says he has no allegiance to tobacco companies and says he won't testify for them in lawsuits.

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