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Smoke Signals

July 03, 1994

In her article "Blame It on Bizet" (Off-Centerpiece, June 19), Juliann Garey goes to great lengths to explain how movies and television shows continue to encourage young people to smoke by having their role models puff away on screen.

The article totally ignores the considerable impact the Entertainment Industries Council Inc. has made through its distribution of "Spotlight on Depiction of Health and Social Issues," a notebook intended to provide clear-cut, accurate information to creators of television and film productions when they deal with such health or social issues as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

We can point to many productions where the use of tobacco was influenced by information contained in the notebook:

* During the last season of "Cheers," Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) took up smoking during a period of intense psychological pressure in her life, as a coping device. Several weeks later, one of her cigarettes accidentally burned down the bar. She never smoked again.

* In "Hearts Afire," female lead Georgie Ann (Markie Post) was introduced as an abrasive obsessive-compulsive who chain-smoked. With each episode, executive producer and writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason had Georgie Ann slowly quit smoking (for her sake and that of those breathing her secondhand smoke).

* Last season on "Murphy Brown," when Candice Bergen's character, a former smoker, entered Phil's Bar & Grill with her newborn baby, she kicked a smoker out to protect her infant from secondhand smoke.

* In "Mrs. Doubtfire," an actor (Robin Williams) refuses to do voices for a movie cartoon with a smoking gag unless he is allowed to provide an anti-tobacco message in his dialogue.

The notebook is the result of 10 years of work by the creative community and experts in the field of each issue area addressed. Among issues soon to be added are violence--addressing concerns legislators and others have brought up recently--aging, child abuse, inhalant use, environmental protection and physical disabilities.

LARRY DEUTCHMAN

Vice President

Entertainment Industries Council, Burbank

*

I have only four questions for the film industry:

* Have you got so much smoke in your eyes that it is obscuring your view of the very real ugliness and pain of the victims and the loved ones who must endure watching them die of lung cancer?

* How do you romanticize my visiting my brother in the oncology unit of Long Beach Community Hospital?

* Is there anything sexy about his being hooked up to a respirator because not one but both of his lungs collapsed?

* Where is the badge of humanity to be pinned as the coffin is lowered into the ground and I bid farewell to my all-too-human and vulnerable brother?

JEANNE T. WASSERMAN

Mission Viejo

*

When Divine ate dog droppings in "Pink Flamingos"--now that was cool. But when Winona and Ethan and Bozo and all the little Butt-head mass bohemians bite on their ciggies, it's pretty hilarious. Like R. J. Reynolds said, "A sucker dies every minute."

What I want to know is how many bucks the filmmakers get from the ciggie corporations to show the stars smoking on the screen.

RICHARD GLEAVES

San Diego

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