SHOULDN'T editors try to end their publications' hypocrisy toward smoking? Shouldn't they ask their publications to stop running cigarette ads? Newspapers and magazines report how smoking kills. They provide health columns that offer guides for those who want to quit. But they also publish seductive ads promoting smoking as sexy and sophisticated.
For the young boy who thinks, perhaps, that smoking will make him a man, Camel offers ads and billboards with anthropomorphic Old Joe, a stud camel in flashy bow tie surrounded at the beach, near the pool table, and at the gambling casino by curvaceous young women. In other ads, the Marlboro Man oozes machismo.
For girls, an ad for Newport Stripes shows a beach scene with a gaggle of giggling, healthy, swimsuit-clad young women who look no older than my 16-year-old daughter. An ad for Virginia Slims still associates smoking with female independence: A modishly dressed young woman, cigarette in hand, complements the headline - ``You've come a long way, baby.''
Newspapers defend their acceptance of cigarette advertising. The Boston Globe talks about ``a responsibility to its public to allow the varying voices of the community appropriate access to its advertising space.''
Two national organizations, both with media representatives, teach the First Amendment as the cigarette companies would like it taught. The Council for Commercial Freedom argues the right to advertise ``all goods and services that legally are available for sale'' - even tobacco products, which kill an estimated 350,000 Americans each year. The Leadership Council on Advertising Issues espouses ``the freedom to advertise unfettered by government intervention.''
But newspapers need not oppose the freedom of cigarette companies to advertise in order to exercise their own freedom to reject cigarette ads.
Perhaps it's time to establish a counter organization to the Council for Commercial Freedom and the Leadership Council - call it NO ADS (every organization needs an acronym). The agenda of Newspapers Opposed to Advertising Death by Smoking could include:
1.Remind the public that, whatever the tobacco companies say, they design their ad campaigns to sell to the young and minorities. Question the ethics of minority - and nonminority - journalism organizations and educational institutions accepting money from cigarette companies that want to associate their names with journalism-award programs and similar activities.
2.Insist that public events - including meetings and conventions sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors - be kept smoke-free. Action on Smoking and Health, citing scientific and medical journals, says 50,000 Americans die each year from diseases caused by inhaling other people's tobacco smoke.
3.Dispute the propaganda of the cigarette companies. In response to the Philip Morris magazine ad campaign that contends smokers contribute significantly to every part of the US economy, remind Americans that smoking contributes immeasurably to every American's health costs, insurance rates, and taxes. Ask that tobacco companies and smokers pay society's bills for smoking-related diseases.
4.Question the phony ``smokers' rights'' crusade. Everyone should sympathize with those addicted to smoking. But no one needs to accept the ``rights'' talk of these victims as anything more than a smoke screen for a health hazard.
5.Provide coverage of important smoking-related health issues. Do the warning labels on cigarette packs really warn anyone or do they go unnoticed? Do the new ultra-light cigarette brands mislead the public into thinking these products are less deadly?
6.Question US government activity that encourages the export of death by US tobacco companies. Patrick Reynolds, the antismoking activist who is the grandson of R.J. Reynolds, says that marketing cigarettes abroad is ``going to be directly responsible for tens of millions of deaths.''
If newspaper and magazines kicked the cigarette-ad habit, perhaps Americans would find it easier to refrain from becoming addicted to cigarettes. That's reason enough for editors to ask their publications to stop running cigarette ads.