One can only hope Bruce Herschensohn's Column Right of April 1, "Cigarettes Today, Burgers Tomorrow," was an April Fool's attempt at humor. The comparison of the health problems linked to cigarette smoking and those due to dietary indiscretion trivializes the multiple diseases attributable to cigarette smoking.
Aside from the 20% of cardiovascular deaths attributable to cigarette smoking, 80% of emphysema and 30% of cancer deaths are also attributable to cigarettes. This does not include the increased incidence of peptic ulcer disease, decreased exercise tolerance and increased incidence of osteoporosis seen in cigarette smokers. Regarding Herschensohn's concern about cholesterol, smokers actually tend to have an atherogenic cholesterol profile, so his smoking along with his burgers will have a synergistic effect upon his development of coronary heart disease.
Food consumption is required for life. I am not aware of any pharmacological substance in hamburgers producing physical addiction, though psychological addiction is a possibility. Cigarettes, in contrast, contain nicotine, a well-docu- mented addictive substance. While I would not want to neglect the importance of a healthy diet, the multiple hazards of cigarette smoking far outweigh burger consumption. My advice to Herschensohn would be to quit both.
HAROLD KEER MD, PhD
Fellow in Medical Oncology
Stanford Medical School
* Herschensohn's logic escapes me. How can he compare the dangers of tobacco with fat consumption? It isn't just about him! His consumption of fatty junk food does not stink up the room, clog my arteries, give me a migraine headache, asthma, or cause the possibility of my having lung cancer--his cigarette does.
* So, Herschensohn believes that any attempt to regulate tobacco sales is just the beginning of "socialized" governmental attempts to restrict our right to use legal substances. Excuse me! The only thing that the government is trying to do is to restrict how a deadly and highly addictive substance like tobacco is marketed to impressionable children.
As to Herschensohn's cynical comparison of tobacco regulation to possible regulation of the cheeseburger, I don't believe that we should regulate sales of this product that is known to cause obesity, heart disease and cancer. However, since the public owns the television airwaves, should we not have the right to restrict advertising also aimed at addicting our children to the unhealthiest diet that the world has ever seen?