Billboards Promote Tobacco and CancerI think everyone will...


December 19, 1992

Billboards Promote Tobacco and Cancer

I think everyone will agree that cancer is bad.

It causes pain, premature death and sadness to families and friends left behind. It causes lack of productivity and high medical costs for all of us.

Maryland is No. 1 in the country in cancer-related deaths and Baltimore is No. 1 in the state. Dr. Alfred Sommer, in his letter to the editor (Dec. 5), calls for resources to prevent cancer.

He talks about current efforts to find a cure and the meager amount of resources dedicated to prevention. He states that Maryland's Secretary of Health, Nelson Sabatini, was granted $3 million to try to prevent smoking-related cancer deaths.

It is a well known fact that tobacco and alcohol consumption cause cancer. Yet, as a society we allow the industries that produce these deadly goods to glamorize their wares as benign products of good will and great fun.

On billboards throughout our city we see beautiful, healthy couples frolicking at the beach "Alive with Pleasure" and Newport cigarettes. We see Joe Camel and the Budman striking cool and debonair poses with cigarettes dangling from their cute little cartoon lips. We see Billy Dee Williams attributing his sex appeal to Colt 45 Malt liquor. We see that alcohol and tobacco cause fun, beauty, popularity and wealth.

None of these images tell us that alcohol and tobacco cause death -- quite the opposite, they tell us that the key to a successful life is to smoke and drink.

I agree with Dr. Sommer that $3 million is a "relatively paltry sum in the scheme of things." Further, I would venture to say that to make a difference we would need to invest $532 million in preventing cancer or disinvest $532 million in promoting cancer.

Logic tells us that it is easier and more cost effective to disinvest in cancer promotion. This can easily be done by prohibiting alcohol and tobacco advertising on billboards.

According to the "Media and Value Quarterly," the alcohol and tobacco companies spend $532 million annually on billboard advertisements. If we are serious about preventing cancer then we must accept the cause and recognize the problem. Misleading ads on billboards cause people to smoke and drink. (If this were not so, the alcohol and tobacco industries would not be spending $532 million a year.)

Smoking and drinking alcohol cause cancer. If we want to prevent cancer we must stop promoting it. It is just plain common sense.

Graylin Smith


The writer is the president of Citizens Planning and Housing


Multicultural Zeal

This regards Glenn McNatt's "Multiculturalism Without Apology" (Dec. 12). Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., author of "The Disuniting of America," agrees that recognition of the achievements of women, Afro-Americans, Asians, etc. in curricula is a corrective long overdue.

But the concomitant repudiation of "dead white European males" is distorting history. "Western culture must go!" is the battle cry, and in most colleges the history of Western civilization is no longer a prerequisite.

Black historians and intellectuals such as W. E .B. DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr. and James Baldwin have affirmed that, despite their roots in Africa, American blacks are the product of centuries of acculturation in America.

And Europe is the wellspring of American culture in which great black Americans have found inspiration -- as has McNatt, who cites Socrates in Plato's Apologies in stating that multiculturalism is a "threat to the established order."

But multiculturalism is a challenge, not a threat. Western tradition has evolved by co-opting many such challenges. However, multicultural zealots seek not the incorporation of other cultures into the Western heritage, but the dismantling of that heritage. It is that excess which could undermine the very foundation of the republic.

The American Constitution derives from the European Enlightenment and has its source in the ideas of "dead white European males" -- Aristotle, Grotius, Locke, Hobbes, Mill, Montesquieu, et al. The rule of law, due process, freedom of press, speech and religion are Western ideas -- ideas to which the peoples of the Third World aspire.

Multicultural ideologues scorn common dedication to a set of principles. But these tenets, however imperfectly realized, comprise the cement that holds the American people together.

The militant jockeying of groups puts the Unum in E Pluribus Unum at risk and fosters a rancorous Balkanization.

Rights belong to individuals, not to groups. America must retain the capacity to forge one nation from a miscellany of racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds -- with mutual respect cross-fertilizing and enriching all.

Rea Knisbacher


Revisionist Theory of National Guard Role

The innuendoes, inaccuracies and historic revisions in Jonathan Paul Yates' Dec. 3 article, "The National Guard in Changing Times," are so numerous that an in-depth response would require almost a book.

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