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Smoking in the dark

July 31, 2007

Re "Lighting up at the movies," Opinion, July 27

Jacob Sullum raises doubt about the need for censorship of smoking on the screen. Like the author, I am willing to accept the magic of cinematic art as I find it.

Still, Sullum's conclusion begs an artistic question: Why do some movie studios show actors smoking, even when it seems but a gratuitous gesture?

For example, Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a diffident beginner when she lights up in "Sex and the City." Let's face it, today's play-acting smoker is no Gary Cooper, and the depiction of the cigarette-as-prop often devolves into a stilted disconnect.

All this gives rise to another fumy question: Are there financial incentives for the studios to promote smoking in their feature films and television shows?

William Solberg

Los Angeles

It is well documented that smoking contributes to diseases such as cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease. In addition, among other conditions, secondhand smoke contributes to heart disease, lung cancer and increased risks for sudden infant death syndrome.

I realize that Sullum may not take issue with the known harm of smoking and secondhand smoke. His issue is with factors contributing to the choice to begin smoking. Young people see enough smoking; the less exposure the better. Even if movies exert only a small influence on the decision to smoke, that is still something.

According to the article, the Walt Disney Co. did not agree to eliminate smoking in all its films, just its family-oriented movies. Disney said it will discourage smoking in films made by Touchstone and Miramax.

I interpret that to mean smoking will be depicted if it is necessary to the character development or plot of the film.

Sullum is acting in a juvenile manner when he resorts to the slippery-slope argument and to belittling those working to improve the public's health.

Barbara Schwartz

Lakewood

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