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The Smoking Debate: The Cigarette as Killer or Painkiller?

September 14, 1997

"Cold Turkey" (by Janet Wiscombe, Aug. 10) was well-researched and enlightening. I, for one, would welcome a society without tobacco and the ill effects it has on people.

Another aspect of smoking not mentioned is the waste it creates. You cannot go to a park, beach, shopping mall, library, school, market or movie theater without seeing cigarette butts everywhere. How about the government quickly imposing an environmental tax on cigarettes while they are still legal?

Paul Sowa

Irvine

The anti-tobacco people believe that if smoking is effectively banned, this would be a much healthier nation, diseases would just disappear and we would all live to be 100. Wishful thinking.

There is hardly sufficient proof that smoking does annually kill about 420,000 Americans. That's a computer-created estimate, not a real-life count of victims. But because that number comes from governmental sources, it is seldom questioned.

At least Wiscombe had the courage to point out some of the positive aspects of smoking and suggest that a nation that doesn't allow tobacco usage might become repressed, intolerant and regimented.

And it is too bad that people like Stanton Glantz have to resort to name-calling. I have yet to meet a "sleazy" smoker, but I do know a few sleazy anti-tobacco types who make a comfortable living off their anti-smoking activities.

Otto J. Mueksch

North Hollywood

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Yes, I know smoking cigarettes is harmful to me, more or less. However, since there is no escape from the responsibilities of life, we take what we have and try to make life as comfortable as we can. Some use drugs, legal or otherwise; smoking, of course, is a currently legal form of "painkiller.'

Do I want to be healthier, more energetic, ready to go the extra mile? Nope. Like millions of others, I work for a corporation that would receive the benefits of my "improved health." I, on the other hand, could look forward to being more productive over my increased lifetime, being less of a burden on the profits and being a more subservient employee.

John S. Russell

Whittier

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I know firsthand the dangers of smoking; three members ofmy family had to quit the habit because of smoking-induced health problems. But what bothers me is all the national attention this addiction receives in comparison to another addictive substance: alcohol. Alcohol is worse, because it can not only destroy the life of the drinkers but also kill innocent people when drinkers hit the road.

OK, take away cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco, but then also take away alcohol.

Dina L. Kochly

Santa Ana

As a physican who has attended many smokers, I'd like nothing better than to see tobacco regulated as a drug. But I recognize that two things cannot be legislated: morality and proper care of the human body.

Smokers will probably maintain their right to indulge, but they must simultaneously assume full responsibility for their actions and the consequences. For example, there should be an end to discounted health-insurance rates buffered by the good health of nonsmokers; and there should be a total absence of smoking in the presence of nonsmokers, who should not be exposed to noxious odors and "environmental poisons."

Also, I seriously propose a "butt law," akin to the bottle laws adopted by many states; butts would be returned to a designated site for nominal but significant refunds financed by an appropriate additional tax on a pack of cigarettes. (On the other hand, those enterprising tobacco companies might decide to recycle the returns.)

Dr. Tood A. Maugans

Hollywood

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