WASHINGTON—A federal agency that polices the accuracy of U.S. advertising has sent a message to industry that it must report scientific results fairly and completely.

Last month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. reached an agreement on an FTC complaint brought against a 1985 advertisement by Reynolds that discussed the findings from a major National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial aimed at reducing deaths from coronary heart disease. They government had accused Reynolds of making false and misleading claims about the results of the study.

Although Reynolds did not concede any errors in its advertisement, it has agreed in the settlement not to misrepresent in future ads the results of this or any other scientific study that involves the relationship between cigarette smoking and health. The settlement also reaffirms the commission’s right to regulate as commercial speech the type of ads that Reynolds ran in...

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