Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

188: A Fraud, Period : Cynical proposition deserves a shouted 'No!' at the polls

October 28, 1994

There's only one thing voters have to know about Proposition 188: It's a complete fraud. Keep that simple truth in mind and this initiative will be buried on Nov. 8 under the landslide of righteous rejection that its cynical intentions so richly merit.

Tobacco companies have spent millions of dollars to get Proposition 188 on the ballot and then to try to persuade voters that it would be good for them, helpful to California business, even--God help us all--beneficial to public health. It is, their propaganda blares, "the reasonable solution." As about three seconds of common-sense reflection should make clear, the tobacco companies aren't spending a fortune promoting Proposition 188 for selfless reasons. They expect to reap a handsome return on their investment. How? By expanding opportunities for people to smoke and so to encourage more smoking and, of course, bigger cigarette sales profits.

Proposition 188 would weaken, not strengthen, virtually every effective anti-smoking law, local and state, now on the books in California. Whatever this measure claims it would do to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors or to protect nonsmokers from deadly exposure to secondhand smoke, existing laws already do better. Proposition 188 talks about being "tough" when it comes to selling cigarettes to the young. It "doubles current fines for selling tobacco to minors, up to $2,000 for a third offense," say its ads. What they don't say, but what the text of Proposition 188 does, is that the fine could be waived if a "person, firm or corporation" had acted in "good faith" when selling cigarettes to minors. As used here, good faith requires nothing more than posting small signs saying cigarette sales to minors are illegal and having employees sign statements saying they're aware of that. Wow, talk about tough.

Among its advertised virtues is that Proposition 188 "preserves freedom of choice" by giving "individual restaurant and business owners the flexibility" either to prohibit smoking or permit it in designated areas. But where's the "freedom of choice" for the 80% of the public that doesn't smoke and that doesn't want to be exposed to secondhand smoke? Proposition 188 has a lot of verbiage about ventilation systems that are supposed to whisk away smoke from the 25% of a restaurant where smoking would be permitted, implying that nonsmokers would be spared from exposure to tobacco pollutants. But independent experts strongly question the efficacy of such systems. The preferable approach is just to leave in place existing laws that ban smoking in restaurants and most other enclosed workplaces.

Proposition 188 would not impose tough statewide smoking restrictions. It would supplant existing tough measures with rules that favor smokers and profit the tobacco industry. It would not get tougher with those who sell cigarettes to minors but would instead override a strong new measure by Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) that is to take effect Jan. 1. Finally, Proposition 188 does nothing--we repeat, nothing--to protect nonsmokers. It only slashes the protections existing anti-smoking laws have provided.

The backers of Proposition 188 believe that California's voters are fools who can be duped by a glitzy, enormously expensive and manipulatively dishonest advertising campaign into voting against their own health interests. That conclusion must be repudiated. We urge an emphatic rejection of Proposition 188, and the duplicitous campaign behind it.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|