NEWARK, MARCH 1 -- For 20 years the tobacco industry used a "holding strategy" to defend itself against the charge that cigarette smoking causes disease, according to a confidential memo introduced today in a smoker-death case.

In a 1972 memo, Frederick R. Panzer, a vice president of the Tobacco Institute, said that the "brilliantly conceived and executed" strategy consisted of:

"Creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it."

"Advocating the public's right to smoke, without actually urging them to take up the practice."

"Encouraging objective scientific research as the only way to resolve the question of health hazard."

Panzer sent the memo to Horace R. Kornegay, then president (and later chairman) of the institute. The memo covered the time period during which, in 1953, an experiment by Ernest L. Wynder showed that condensed tars from smoke, placed on the shaven backs of mice, caused a significiant number of tumors and malignancies, and, in 1964, the surgeon general released his first report on smoking and health.

Plaintiff's lawyer Marc Z. Edell introduced the memo as evidence at the close of the fifth and final day of testimony by Joseph F. Cullman III, chairman-emeritus of Philip Morris Inc.

Cullman, who had been subpoenaed by Edell, generally disassociated himself from the memo, testifying specifically that "I disagree" that "creating doubt" was an element of industry strategy.

In the memo, Panzer said that the industry deployed the strategy "on three major fronts -- litigation, politics and public opinion."

"On the litigation front, for which the strategy was designed, it has been successful," Panzer wrote.

He pointed out that the industry hadn't lost a smoker-liability case, which remains true 16 years after his memo.

"On the political front, the strategy has helped make possible an orderly retreat," Panzer continued.

"On the public opinion front, however, our situation has deteriorated and will continue to worsen. This erosion will have an adverse effect on the other fronts... . " Panzer said.

Panzer urged a major effort to shift public opinion to accept that "smoking may not be the health hazard that the antismoking people say it is because other alternatives are at least as probable {as causes}."

His examples were "air pollution, viruses, food additives, occupational hazards and stresses."

His chief weapon was to be an elaborate survey.

"If the results are favorable, release them as a book" to counter the annual reports by the surgeon general on smoking and health, he advised.

"And best of all, it would only have to be seen -- not read -- to be believed ... just like the surgeon general's report."

The jury also heard a deposition by Curtis H. Judge, retired president and chief executive of P. Lorillard Inc. Lorillard, Philip Morris and Liggett Group Inc. are codefendants inthe smoker-death lawsuit, which widower Antonio Cipollone brought in U.S. District Court.

Judge, who is in ill health, told Edell that if he were convinced that cigarettes caused lung cancer, he would stop smoking and "get out of the business" because "I couldn't live with myself."

But Judge also testified that the case against smoking hasn't been "proven" -- meaning, he said, that it hasn't been proven "100 percent."

A showing that smoking more likely than not caused cancer would be insufficient, he said.

Edell showed that CNA, an insurance company owned by Lorillard, has offered discounts to nonsmokers.

In a deposition, CNA Chairman Edward J. Noha attributed the discount to competition.

Edell produced a CNA document citing a death rate for smokers that was 70 percent to 100 percent higher than that for comparable nonsmokers.

Philip Morris attorney Peter K. Bleakley tried to counter Edell's examination of Cullman mainly by reading to the jury portions of documents that Edell submitted as evidence but had not mentioned.

Bleakley read to the jury a statement by a Philip Morris scientist that "no one seems to be able to give an explanation {of why people go on smoking} backed by any single, solitary fact."