Cigarette Smoking

December 20, 1985

Growing up in a media family, with a grandfather who ran a newspaper and a father who ran a television station, I got a pretty good dose of the First Amendment at the family dinner table. Both men held strong views, expressed them forcefully, and suffered opposing views with patience approaching Job's.

Some ideas they felt articulate, but wrong. Some foolish, but wrong. Some threatening, but wrong.

Controversy and anger swirled around the family because ideas and viewpoints were forcefully advanced or defended. Important and unimportant people thought them wrong. And even the purveyors of small-mindedness never suggested that they be silenced.

So I grew up in the American tradition--you can have an idea and express it and your neighbor can have an idea and express it. And I grew up and I went to work for a tobacco company and have the good fortune to agree with and advance its ideas.

It's not too dissimilar to the family dinner table: freedom of expression, freedom of choice, an informed populace.

And now, in the name of the common good, the doctors have decreed that the tobacco companies' freedom of expression must be silenced. "Silence them and we will have Utopia" has been the shrill cry of the small-minded through the centuries.

They tried to silence Thomas Paine. Thank God they failed.

They tried to silence Thomas Jefferson. Thank God they failed.

They tried to silence Susan B. Anthony. Thank God they failed.

They tried to silence Martin Luther King. In death his voice is only better heard.

To be sure, I cannot stand with these historical giants. But my freedom to be heard is no less than theirs.

And now the American Medical Assn. wants to silence me.

I want a second opinion!


New York

Smith is vice president-corporate affairs of Philip Morris USA.

Los Angeles Times Articles