20. CIGARETTE ADVERTISING: AN ETHICAL ISSUE THAT'S
"Every year cigarettes kill more Americans than were killed in
World War I, the Korean War and Vietnam (through late 1967) combined;
nearly as many as died in battle in World War II. Each year cigarettes
kill five times more Americans than do traffic accidents. Lung cancer
alone kills as many as die on the road. The cigarette industry is peddling
a deadly weapon. It is dealing in people's lives for financial gain."
It is an outrage that these words are as true today as when the late
Robert F. Kennedy uttered them over seventeen years ago. The only real
change is that smoking is now a major health problem for women; 1985
is the first year that more women will die of lung cancer than any other
form of cancer.
Today, one finds occasional articles in our leading publications pointing
to the great hazards of cigarette smoking. However, what one does not
find in our leading publications, including THE NEW YORK TIMES, is a
discussion of the enormous advertising revenue derived by newspapers
from the tobacco industry and industry-owned subsidiaries such as department
As Alan Blum, M.D. and editor of THE NEW YORK STATE JOURNAL OF MEDICINE
states: "For editors and publishers alike to claim that they condemn
smoking but that, after all, the government does mandate that there
be a warning at the bottom of every cigarette advertisement, is akin
to whispering 'don't jump' to some one about to leap from the Brooklyn
Bridge while standing on a barge in the East River holding up a billboard
reading 'Come on down! The water's fine."'
Dr. Blum and Dr. George Gitlitz, a vascular surgeon and medical spokesperson,
have written numerous letters to the editor of TBB NEW YORK TIMES. These
letters were not answered in the pages of the newspaper but were referred
to the advertising department for "form letter" replies. THE
TIMES won't accept ads for horoscopes hand-guns, or x-rated movies,
yet defends its acceptance of cigarette advertising with glib references
to "The Surgeon Generals warning," and the "right of
informed adults to choose for themselves."
But, what Drs. Blum and Gitlitz have been asking for, and what THE
TIMES has consistently refused, is to make this policy public in its
editorial pages and open it t up to debate by its readers.
Instead, THE NEW YORK TIMES has chosen to ignore the repeated queries
of two distinguished doctors and writers. THE TIMES has effectively
censored the discussion of its own participation in the deaths of 600,000
Americans every year through cigarette related illnesses.
NEW YORK STATE JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, December 1983, "The World
Cigarette Pandemic," edited by Alan Blum, MD, pp 1245-1371; and
April 1984, "Ethics of THE NEW YORK TIMES Under Scrutiny,"
by Alan Blum, MD.