In his Dec. 28 op-ed, "Memo to government: We know smoking kills," George F. Will simultaneously opposed continuing the requirement for tobacco companies to use labels and ads to warn about tobacco's dangers and the taxes on tobacco that have been shown to be quite effective in reducing tobacco use.
Mr. Will wrote that "everyone" has known for decades that, as the new tobacco company ads proclaim, "more people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined," but he provided no reasonable explanation of why, if they "know," 36.5 million Americans continue to smoke and more than 16 million suffer a smoking-related disease.
Mr. Will somehow missed the point that the labeling and taxing of tobacco have proved simultaneously successful (reducing tobacco use in adults from more than 40 percent to the current 15 percent) and unsuccessful, as smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of death in the United States — and thus a very major cause of America's high health costs.
Why did Mr. Will not come to the conclusion that more, not less, should be done to keep people from smoking — perhaps by outlawing the tobacco companies and their sales, by requiring them to remove the addictive nicotine or by banning them from advertising their products at all?
William Grigg, Chevy Chase
The writer is a former news and communications director at the Food and Drug Administration,
the National Institutes of Health and
the U.S. Public Health Service.
George F. Will left out why tobacco companies are being forced to run ads telling the truth about their lethal products. A federal court ordered them to do so after finding they engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the public about the very facts Mr. Will claimed everyone knows. The court also found that "the evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity." The ads provide critical new information to the public about the vast scope of harm caused by smoking and the industry's deceptive practices.
Mr. Will ignored another crucial fact. Nearly all new smokers are children. Unless we continue educating our children about the dangers of using tobacco, our progress will quickly erode.
The ads couldn't be timelier. Tobacco companies are claiming to fund "independent" research about the tobacco problem, just as the court found they did to create doubt about the dangers of smoking, and they are rolling out a new generation of products they claim are safer. These ads are a reminder that these claims must be regarded skeptically.
Matthew L. Myers, Washington
The writer is president of the
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.