In a letter Jan. 2, William Roche defended cigarette advertising on the basis of free speech. I disagree with him.

Although I am not a student of the Bill of Rights, I do know that freedom of anything is lost when you break a law; the law I am talking about is fraud. Fraud is ''deceit . . . specifically, intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value,'' in this case the purchasers' money (see Merriam-Webster's seventh edition). I believe it is an act of fraud when cigarette companies with ads tell our children, our uneducated and our misinformed that cigarettes are synonymous with fun, good times, youth, ''looking good'' and sexuality.

It is true that contemporary American society is so wrapped up in its own wants and needs that it frequently doesn't see the big picture. The cigarette companies, however, do see the big picture. Judging from the ads I've seen, their advertisements have stopped targeting an older audience in order to target a younger audience, and I know which group is more malleable. If the companies are losing business with the older audience, revenue could be recouped by addressing the advertising to young buyers.

When two ''freedoms'' are in conflict, it is time to arbitrate. One outcome of such arbitration would permit the manufacture of cigarettes, but it would also put restraints on the advertising of them.

RICHARD M. PERROTTI

Alexandria