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Cigarette Advertising and the Right to Free Speech

December 28, 1985

As one who has never smoked and never will, I've been too silent too long. The letter in The Times by Guy Smith IV of Philip Morris USA (Dec. 20) finally pushed me over the edge.

You want a second opinion, Mr. Smith? OK, here it is!

Your own media family can tell you that First Amendment rights must be mitigated by concern for the safety of the majority. Shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater is child's play compared to the damage done by cigarettes in this country.

You are a man who represents a company that is responsible for dispensing death and debilitating disease to hundreds of thousands of Americans, both those who use your product and those, like, me, who do not, and you compare yourself and your company to the likes of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King! Your rhetoric is nearly as disgusting as the products you sell.

There is no doubt as to the horrible effects of smoking on the human body. The only unknowns are the additional negative effects that we are discovering nearly every day. There are no positive and you know it, despite the pleas from your public relations department.

I have attended numerous meetings and social gathering where inconsiderate people practice their filthy habit of smoking, causing my eyes to water, my clothes to stink and my head to ache. More than one meal has been ruined for me by someone who lights up in a restaurant that fails to enforce a no smoking area. (I know it's the law. However, it is also illegal to smoke in a food store, but go and watch the smokers spread their filth there while the manager tells you he is afraid to offend them.) Rather than cause a scene, I've either endured it or left early.

I watch sporting events where finely tuned athletes give 100% effort, knowing their performances would be disastrously affected by smoking, only to see that the competition is sponsored by the likes of your company, Mr. Smith, whose only aim is to sell physical addiction and destruction.

So, Mr. Smith, my thanks to you. Comparing your First Amendment right to champion the spread of death and disease to millions of people with the Freedom of Speech of some of our most historic patriots has touched a raw nerve with me. From now on I am going to do everything I can to eliminate smoking from anywhere but a person's private residence. You see, I'm not so radical as to suggest that a person should be prevented from committing suicide in the privacy of his own home, I just don't wish to be in the line of fire.



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