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VIEWPOINTS : Product May Ease Rising Repression Against Smokers

September 20, 1987|SIDNEY OVERALL and DEAN OVERALL | SIDNEY and DEAN OVERALL, residents of St. Simons Island, Ga., founded Washington-based People United for Friendly Smoking in 1985. Dean is a smoker and Sidney is a former smoker. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco and the Tobacco Institute both declined to provide commentary of their own

R. J. Reynolds is to be applauded for developing a "smokeless" cigarette. Those who enjoy smoking will be able to do so without bothering others who may be annoyed by smoke.

Although polls indicate that the number of those who smoke is dropping, smokers still represent a sizable minority of citizens.

And today, smokers have become victims--of slights, of rudeness and of outright discrimination.

As founders of People United for Friendly Smoking (PUFFS)--a nonprofit group, independent of the tobacco industry, that believes in courtesy, compromise and accommodation rather than repressive legislation on smoking matters--we are well aware of the stress inflicted on today's smokers by non-smokers. Thousands of letters to our organization attest to it.

Sure, non-smokers should be kept in mind. If you're a smoker, ask others if they mind whether you light up.

But today, the anti-smoking forces have gone overboard. Smokers face a growing number of restrictions on their freedom: employment practices that deny jobs to people who smoke, restrictions in private restaurants that make it increasingly difficult to smoke and laws to restrict tobacco use.

Bills have been introduced in Congress to ban smoking in all federal buildings, ban smoking on all airlines and prohibit the advertising of tobacco products. The next step, certain anti-smokers propose, should be outright prohibition.

Holds Considerable Promise

The repressive attitude in this country toward smokers has forced R. J. Reynolds into developing its new "smokeless" cigarette. The repressive attitude is unfortunate, but the end result--a new cigarette--holds considerable promise.

The cigarette is designed so that it does not produce a tobacco smoke odor or any ash that needs to be flicked into an ashtray, and it produces almost no smoke off the lit end of the cigarette after the first few puffs. For smokers, the cigarette would still provide the taste and smoking sensation of other, more traditional brands.

Our society should practice accommodation, not Big Brother legislation. And R. J. Reynolds' new cigarette is a worthy example of accommodation. The zealot-like reaction against smokers in this country is only leading to the erosion of personal liberties.

Let's not throw freedom out with the cigarette butts.

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