Tobacco ads aim to confuse and misleadForty years ago the...

the Forum

September 14, 1994

Tobacco ads aim to confuse and mislead

Forty years ago the tobacco industry announced with much fanfare the creation of the Council for Tobacco Research.

Full page ads were placed in newspapers across the country promising the council would examine "all phases of tobacco use and health." Yet the organization, along with its founders, has yet to admit that tobacco smoking is harmful to health.

Now that the scientific evidence is piling up on the dangers of second-hand smoke, the industry has once again published a series of full-page newspaper ads costing tens of thousands of dollars in an attempt to mislead the general public.

This strategy is just as dishonest as the one in the 1950s.

The tobacco industry is trying to buy a voice in a scientific debate that was settled long ago -- that there is a significant link between tobacco smoke and disease.

Very few people want smoking prohibited, especially in the home. Most people, however, do want to breathe clean air in the workplace and other public places.

The tobacco industry is spending lots of money to confuse Maryland citizens. But their advertising dollars can't change scientific reality.

These ads deflect discussion from the real issues: that second-hand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year to non-smokers in the United States; that 3,000 children a day start on the path to nicotine addiction; that 419,000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases; that the direct medical costs associated with smoking totaled $50 billion in 1993 alone; that higher excise taxes on tobacco bring down the smoking rate and that passage of clean indoor air laws saves lives and money.

Efforts to pass clean indoor air laws and regulations are motivated by a desire to save lives; the tobacco industry's efforts to obscure science are motivated by a desire to increase profits.

Nelson J. Sabatini


The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Leave Haiti be

With an invasion of Haiti imminent, I find it hard to contemplate how young Americans are to be sent into battle to die by a president who did everything to avoid the draft himself but is willing to send others to their deaths.

The cause being advocated is supported by neither the people nor Congress -- nor, I'm sure, by the boys who will die.

The true cause can only be for our president to score points for himself to try to raise his poor ratings. This no doubt will backfire -- as it should. But that's not much compensation for those who won't come home.

Isn't it about time we stopped trying to decide how others should be governed? We are too much in need of improvement here.

Louis Marcus


Charm killers

I took my daughter to the Cloisters Children's Museum recently for a farewell visit. Like many of those saying their good-byes, I was saddened and bewildered -- how could Baltimore let such an enchanting spot slip through its fingers?

Over the past decade or so, our city has lost so many sources of character and charm that it's tempting to look for conspiracies.

Could there, perhaps, be a secret cabal of powers that be who are intent on robbing us of everything that contributes a measure of beauty, tradition or delight to our lives?

If so, excerpts from their board meetings might run something like this:

* "Gentlemen, as I'm sure you are aware, the aromas from McCormick's Inner Harbor spice factory are giving residents and tourists alike entirely too much pleasure.

"There's that quaint tea room, too.

"Call out the bulldozers, boys -- what the harbor really needs is a parking lot."

* "Boss, we've got to talk about this stadium thing. Memorial Stadium is just too user-friendly.

"Anybody can go to a game anytime they want, and bring the kids, too. There's even free parking in the neighborhood.

"But if we're clever, we can have local sports fans begging for a multi-million-dollar downtown stadium complete with hard-to-get tickets, parking hassles, ticket scalping and arrests. What bliss!"

* "The Cloisters has a big problem: it's beautiful. If the little brats get exposed to too much beauty, how will we get them to buy our buildings when they grow up?

"And what modern kid can relate to a castle on a hill, anyway?

"Let's put 'em in a failed shopping mall next to The Block. The parents will love that."

* "By the way, we're gonna need a new mid-town supermarket. Do you think we can find a few irreplaceable art deco buildings to demolish while we're at it?"

The cabal may be fictitious, but the attitudes certainly aren't. If we're not careful, we may wake up to discover that Charm City's charm-killers have not only picked our pockets but stolen Baltimore's soul.

Lynn Jensen


Vagrant rights?

Recently I took my grandchildren to the Maryland Science Center. After a nice morning exploring the center, we went outside to eat lunch on a bench -- only to find that no benches were available.

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