How to Reduce Underage Smoking - by Law Enforcement or a Cigarette Tax?

Regarding the editorial "A Breakthrough Against Smoking," Nov. 17: Those who claim that higher excise taxes will discourage underage smoking ignore the government's data. While cigarette prices in constant dollars increased by 40 percent between 1981 and 1988, smoking prevalence among high school seniors during the same period remained essentially unchanged.

According to a 1989 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, smoking is most prevalent among high school seniors in the Northeast, even though cigarette prices there are among the highest in the nation. The GAO describes the current generation of teenagers as more likely to be "highly resistant" to price increases on cigarettes than earlier generations.

How then, can anyone make the claim that higher excise taxes would significantly reduce youth smoking? The way to reduce underage smoking is by addressing peer pressure and enforcing state laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of cigarettes to minors. Thomas Lauria, Washington The Tobacco Institute Hollywood's value system

Regarding the Arts page interview "At Odds With Hollywood Values," Nov. 17: A hearty "hurrah" for Michael Medved, author of the book "Hollywood vs. America." It is interesting that David Denby of the New Republic read Mr. Medved's book to the end, even though he found it stupid. Could it be that he found the truth in it attractive?

Surely no one can be so naive as to accept the weak argument that movies merely reflect rather than influence behavior in today's society. Commercials also influence sales. What better example than the "pet rock" craze that made millionaires of the promoters.

No, I am not for censorship. Let's hit them where it hurts - in the pocketbook. Don't buy tickets to any movie that undermines the moral health of mankind. Both theater managers and movie moguls will get the message. Carolyn Hill, Citrus Heights, Calif.

Michael Medved is obviously an intelligent, concerned American, not a right-wing fanatic, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. As the parent of a teenager and two younger children, I am constantly challenged with the "everybody does it" and "everybody has it" mentality that is fed into children via prime-time television. Television seems to excel in taking an element of society and portraying it as mainstream. Talk shows especially try to outdo each other with pieces on bizarre people and situations whil e overlooking the real drama and heroics in common people's lives. Pat Bennett, Summit, N.J.

In the interview with Michael Medved, co-host of Public Broadcasting's "Sneak Previews," Medved states that "there is a hostility to Christian believers, particularly evangelicals" by the Hollywood media.

While I agree that the intense violence of contemporary media is fanning the flames of violence in American culture, in my opinion the hostility to evangelical Christianity is justified by artists and art producers alike, as conservative Christians have attempted with varying degrees of success to break down the separation of church and state, which is the most cherished traditional value of all. Boris Goldmund, San Francisco

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