I sure am impressed with the Tobacco Institute's plan to require that cigarette ads on billboards be at least 500 feet from schools and playgrounds. That's farther away than the length of one, but not two, football fields.

Haven't the concerned people at the institute noticed that those billboards are huge? At that distance, the only kids who won't be able to read the ads are the ones who haven't learned to read yet. But that won't matter; even the ones who can't read will still be attracted to the cartoon characters and young people enjoying sports shown on the cigarette billboard ads. One part of the billboards will be too small to read from 500 feet away, though -- the required health warnings. What a plan.

I would be a little more inclined to take the Tobacco Institute seriously when it says it wants to keep young people from starting to smoke if it stopped all billboard advertising, stopped sponsoring rock concerts and sports events, placed ads only on the inside pages of newspapers and magazines and weren't starting an "It's the Law" campaign that will probably make smoking an attractive "forbidden fruit" to naturally rebellious teenagers. ROBERT E. OSHEL Silver Spring