Giving top priority to finding ways to stop new cases of...

Letters to the Editor

February 06, 1999

Giving top priority to finding ways to stop new cases of cancer

Stewart J. Greenebaum's heartfelt plea ("Fighting cancer with tobacco money," Opinion Commentary, Jan. 29) to invest significant funds from the state's tobacco settlement into the search for cures and more sophisticated equipment to treat cancer, misses an important point. As National Institutes of Health researchers have repeatedly demonstrated, we have our greatest impact on cancer by preventing new cases rather than treating those afflicted.

Certainly all Maryland citizens should have access to the very best of cancer care when they need it. But Maryland does not have the "6th-highest rate of cancer incidence and mortality in the nation" for wont of medical facilities; we have one of the highest rates of lung cancer because too many Marylanders smoke.

While we certainly can and should spend more money on biomedical research, this will not yield a ready solution either. Even if we were so fortunate as to discover a "magic pill that, when taken with your cigarette, would prevent lung cancer," it would still do nothing for emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart disease and stroke -- tobacco-related illnesses that kill far more people.

What we need to do is to help people who are presently smoking stop and prevent children from starting to smoke. What we really need to do is to discover why people smoke in the first place, how we can reduce that tendency and how we can change the behavior of those who presently smoke.

What we learn should then be turned into effective education, regulation and taxation policies that reduce the prevalence of smoking amongst Marylanders, and reduce the likelihood that young children will start to smoke. These are achievable goals.

As Mr. Greenebaum notes, cancer, particularly tobacco-related cancer, is a public health problem; it deserves a public health response.

Alfred Sommer, M.D., Baltimore

The writer is the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

Shame on Postal Service for Malcolm X stamp

Shame on the U.S. Postal Service for issuing a postage stamp honoring that anti-American black radical Malcolm X.

The next thing we know they might well be issuing stamps honoring Judas, Hitler, Clinton and even Mike Olesker. Too bad!

Norman J. Lange, Baltimore

Stopping the steamroller of suburban sprawl

I was both puzzled and delighted to read in Andrew Ratner's Opinion Commentary column ("Light touch keeps Smart Growth viable," Jan. 28) about a Dutch group touring Maryland to learn of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth initiative. Puzzled because no people know more than the Dutch about how to live civilly within an extremely limited land area. Delighted because perhaps now Maryland officials will be invited for a reciprocal tour of the Netherlands.

As Mr. Ratner reminds us, Smart Growth in Europe has been around for a millennium. Well, for most of that millennium Europe need not have been too smart about coping with growth, beset as they were with high doses of plagues, wars and emigration. But if they are coping now, then how? Is it public policy, a culture of patriotism and discipline, accommodating demographics? Is any of this applicable to Maryland?

Mr. Ratner views Smart Growth in proper perspective, describing its cornerstone as limiting public spending so as not to encourage rampant suburban development. But he also warns that Smart Growth must confront unrelenting consumer preference for bigger houses. So how can the growth steamroller ever be stopped, even as Smart Growth puts a few bumps in the road? That European junket by state and county officials for a specific learning purpose (well, they can have a little fun, too) could be a very wise and timely investment.

Nelson L. Hyman, Randallstown

Two writers who take very different approaches

I found much amusement in the contrasting styles of two articles appearing on the same page of The Sun's Opinion Commentary page on Jan. 28. One, "Clinton's survival proof of country's move to the right" was written by syndicated columnist George Will; the other, "The crime of walking while white," by Sun reporter Scott Shane. The most glaring difference was the lucidity and eloquent simplicity of Mr. Shane's article in contrast to the tortured syntactic convolutions of Mr. Will's editorial treatise.

It might be argued that Mr. Will's style fits his subject matter -- weighty abstractions that trace trends in political climate; whereas, Mr. Shane's article is a narrative taken straight from the streets of Baltimore. "Baloney," I say.

I suggest George Will pick up (or dust off) a copy of Strunk and White's "Elements of Style," a dated but immensely helpful book that clearly outlines precepts of effective style. Reporters such as Scott Shane help keep the language of news reporting alive and well and keep readers such as myself coming back for more. J. Douglas Miller, Columbia

The writer is a professor of English at Gallaudet University, Washington.

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