D.C. Public Health Commissioner Reed Tuckson should be commended for speaking out against billboards that advertise drug paraphernalia near D.C. schools. The article {Metro, Jan. 14} about a cigarette rolling-paper ad on a billboard near Dunbar and McKinley high schools illustrates the problems of billboards placed in areas where children and teen-agers congregate. Advertising rolling papers, cigarettes or alcohol on billboards near schools, playgrounds, churches and our neighborhoods entices our children to do things the law forbids them to do. Something needs to be done.

The U.S. Supreme Court says we can't tell a billboard owner what kind of ads he can put on his signs -- that would violate the First Amendment. We can, however, tell a billboard owner where he can put his signs. District residents who are alarmed at the high rates of teen-age drug and alcohol abuse and at the number of youngsters who are pack-a-day cigarette smokers should urge their D.C. Council representatives and Mayor Barry to create billboard-free buffer zones around the areas frequented by youth.

Billboards would still be able to ply their wares in the District, but not where our children would see their enticing messages day in and day out. Let's keep Madison Avenue away from our schools and neighborhoods.

DAVID MICHAUD Washington