LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The White House anti-drug office has decided to award an advertising contract to a company that handles publicity for cigarette brands, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is finishing the first year of a five-year, $1 billion program of anti-drug advertising and hired Bates USA to buy advertising time and space for its ads, the newspaper said.

Bates USA also works for Brown and Williamson's Lucky Strike cigarette brand. Industry sources say Bates has just won accounts worth $50 million to advertise the company's Kool and Capri brands, the Times said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the decision to hire Bates is a ``direct contradiction to what the government is trying to do _ it's hypocrisy.''

His criticism was included in a letter to Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who heads the office.

``It is inconceivable to me that the Office of National Drug Control Policy has disbursed millions of tax dollars for marketing efforts to deter our nation's children from using illicit drugs, including tobacco, to an agency which represents one of the largest tobacco companies, Brown and Williamson,'' McCain wrote.

McCain chairs the Senate Commerce Committee and was the lead sponsor of a Senate bill aimed at reducing teen smoking. Tobacco companies spent more than $40 million on ads opposing the legislation, which died this year.

Officials at McCaffrey's office said federal procurement rules prohibit the government from limiting bidding to companies that eschew tobacco clients.

``There's no legal way that the government could preclude any vendor from bidding on this,'' said Alan Leavitt, chief of the national youth anti-drug media campaign.

Mark Morris, chairman of Bates North America, said he sees no conflict in representing both Brown and Williamson and the government's anti-drug campaign.

``There's nothing illegal about selling alcohol and tobacco to adults and we've been engaged by the tobacco company to promote their brand,'' he said.