For those who make note of the small milestones marking the moral decay of Western civilization, we recently had a "twofer." We had the EEOC supporting the idea of vegetarianism as a religious belief (Aug. 24). The anti-cigarette, anti-business zealots scored a big one Aug. 23 with President Clinton's political broadside on the tobacco industry.
The amorality of the tobacco industry, however, pales in comparison to the evil of grouping cigarette use together with drugs and alcohol. I suppose the glee expressed by FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler and the public health do-gooders comes from knowing that we may now have less fear of being killed by a smoking driver, beaten by a cigarette-crazed spouse or murdered by someone needing money to buy cigarettes.
* Since it is now anticipated that tobacco will be regulated as a drug, I would assume that our government would not allow this drug to be shipped to other countries.
Fat chance. The tobacco companies will continue to make billions by sending cigarettes to the Third World countries. And, of course, all those countries have no teenagers. Hypocrisy reigns!
* How can a truly unbiased judge rule tobacco company documents linking nicotine and addiction inadmissible as evidence in a retrial of a case arising from a long-time smoker's death ("Tobacco Firms Not Culpable for Death, Jury Rules," Aug. 24)?
If such a ruling lies within the judge's legal authority, I cannot help echoing Dickens' phrase, "If the law supposes that .J.J. the law is a ass--a idiot."
* Re lawsuits against the tobacco companies: Everyone says that they didn't realize nicotine was addictive. It's got to be a no-brainer to figure out that cigarettes are addictive, when you see how hard it is to quit smoking. I can't stop eating chocolate bars, so I'm suing the candy makers because they didn't publish the fact that chocolate is addictive too. I'll probably die from obesity because of it.
L. CLINTON HOST
* In all the rhetoric about the increase in drug use by teenagers, I have yet to see any references to President Clinton's strong measures to cut tobacco use by that age group. In every study I have read, the vast majority of drug users started with cigarettes. While I am not naive enough to believe that stopping teen smoking will stop teen drug use, it will certainly be one of the tools needed in this battle, perhaps a very important one since Congress cut funding for other prevention programs.
* In your Aug. 19 editorial on the Food and Drug Administration's plan to regulate tobacco, you identified seven elements you support, including a requirement that all tobacco sales be made in face-to-face transactions where age can be verified.
In principle, we support each of the elements you cited. In fact, we have proposed that Congress write them into federal law.
While we will continue with our voluntary efforts to prevent underage tobacco sales, we believe more must be done. We need comprehensive new laws and strict enforcement of those laws at the state and federal levels. Where we disagree is on which agencies should administer and enforce those laws. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and state governments all have the experience and the resources to administer and enforce tobacco regulations. The FDA has no such experience.
Commissioner Kessler has said numerous times that under FDA rules he might have to ban cigarette sales altogether, including sales to adults who choose to smoke. We don't believe Americans would advocate prohibition as a way to solve the complex social problem of youth smoking.
We're ready and eager to find an aggressive, common-ground approach to underage tobacco use.
Senior Vice President
Philip Morris, New York