Going up in smoke

June 17, 1994|By Art Buchwald

C THE tobacco companies are striking back at their detractors with full-page advertisements giving their side of the story. They are using their CEOs to tell the truth on how safe tobacco is.

I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, I am a born-again non-cigar user and I no longer believe in smoking. On the other hand, since I write a newspaper column I certainly know that the print media can use all the revenue from advertisements it can get.

The tobacco people have inspired other industries to launch similar "educational" campaigns.

For example, the Poison Gas Manufacturers have raised a giant war chest to combat their critics who maintain that gas is bad for you.

Howard Cayne, the president of Goodfellow Poison Gas, intends to take his message to the public.

He told me: "The Poison Gas executives are sick and tired of being scapegoats for the health lobbies and the do-gooders in Congress who don't believe in free choice when it comes to poison gas. Our position has always been that you can never have a gas-free society because you can't stop people from enjoying themselves.

"Besides, poison-gas products generate enormous taxes that pay for education and public transportation."

I raised the question of the secondary effects of poison gas.

Howard Cayne, responded defensively: "There is no scientific proof that poison gas affects people who are standing next to those who use it. In my advertisement I plan to say that despite congressional spectacles we do not spike Goodfellow gas to make it addictive. As a matter of fact we are constantly working to reduce the levels of toxins in our product to meet the guidelines in the Surgeon General's report."

He continued: "The Anti-Poison Gas lobby, led by zealots such as Rep. Henry A. Waxman, would really like to eliminate the use of gas altogether, depriving people of their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Our industry maintains that when you prohibit gas sales you close one more gate on freedom.

"We believe that there is room for both -- people who enjoy poison gas and those who hate it. We can live together. The poison-gas users can have places set aside for their enjoyment. The non-gas people can request gas masks in a restaurant if they feel threatened by the fumes.

"It's demeaning for the government to force us to print on our product labels that poison gas is dangerous to a person's health, when in fact there is no evidence to support this."

I was leaving as the advertising people came in to go over the Goodfellow copy.

"How about a photo accompanying the ad showing you taking an oath in a congressional committee to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" the advertising vice president suggested.

"Why not? We might as well go for broke," Mr. Cayne said.

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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