Clearing the haze over cigarette warnings

September 26, 2011

Regarding the Sept. 25 editorial “Cigarettes and the deadly truth” :

Tobacco industry lawyers argue that the new Food and Drug Administration warnings for cigarette packs violate First Amendment rights and claim that there is little evidence that warnings reduce the rate of smoking. Unfortunately, they are right on both counts, and those arguments should prevail as a matter of law. The editorial countered that the U.S. government has a compelling interest in preventing deaths from tobacco smoking that should supersede First Amendment considerations in this matter.

The elephant in the room is this: If the government is convinced that the dangers of smoking merit suspending First Amendment rights in order to prevent deaths, it should be obvious that smoking itself should be made illegal.

The stunning hypocrisy of allowing a substance proven to cause 20 percent of the mortality in the country to be legal is a measure of how much the government is in the grasp of powerful lobbies, despite all logic.

Richard Accurso, Shepherdstown, W.Va.

●I take issue with the assertion in the editorial on cigarette-package warnings that cigarette manufacturers’ arguments are “not frivolous.” A key part of those arguments seems to be that there is no evidence that the new, enhanced warnings would reduce smoking. If this is so, why argue?

The manufacturers’ lawyers are admitting there’s no threat to the sales. What difference, then, does it make if the companies are “required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products”? Case closed.

Arthur Laupus, Elkridge

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