SMOKING ALTERNATIVES

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Makeover appointment: Darden Restaurants' Red Lobster chain will try a new look.Your Sept. 2 editorial, "Wrong fix for teen smoking," is certainly correct in its assessment of the new Food & Drug Administration rules on tobacco marketing. No reasonable review of the literature on advertising and smoking could possibly yield a reliable basis for thinking the FDA's rules can achieve a substantial decline in teen- age smoking. But there is more to be said about alternative measures, which as you noted should focus on the benefits of more advertising (rather than less).

Almost no one seems to have noticed that the FDA has already taken the first and most important step in this direction, and has done so without bending its own rules or ignoring marketing science. It has rapidly moved several anti-smoking products to OTC status. This permits manufacturers of nicotine patches and nicotine gum to use direct-to-consumer advertising to reinforce smokers' fear of the health effects of their habit and to outline feasible steps for smokers who wish to quit. Experienced mass marketers now have a financial stake in the battle against smoking that they never had before.

The FDA should move even further, by removing its current restrictions on prescription drug advertising, encouraging a more benign regulatory oversight of health claims for weight-loss services and other products that offer alternatives to nicotine, encouraging (rather than actively discouraging) smokeless cigarettes and suggesting that the Federal Trade Commission remove its misguided ban on so-called health claims for cigarettes (since these claims have historically focused on why less cigarette smoke is better).

Then the FDA could point to concrete achievements instead of political grandstanding.

John E. Calfee

American Enterprise Institute

for Public Policy Research

Washington

Easy there, Steve

RJR Nabisco and Philip Morris have brought up interesting points while trying to defend their ability to advertise without regulation and encourage children to smoke. They claim that corporations have the same rights supposedly guaranteed to individuals in the Constitution, such as freedom of speech.

I find this strangely puzzling, considering that employees have no guarantees in the workplace of free speech, as has been demonstrated in many ways, including the breaking of union activity recently.

The question asked here is this: Does the government have the right to regulate corporations to protect children and society? It's the same as laws that require motorcycle helmets, or minimum age requirements for alcohol, tobacco or driving. Still there will be a huge legal battle where powerful corporations will defend their right to encourage kids to smoke.

It is obvious that this sort of advertising harms children and results in huge costs for our society. The next realization that should be made is that ALL advertising harms society. Any economist will tell you that advertising is used to expand the market's demand beyond what would already exist. People are encouraged to consume more than they need.

Honesty is lost, both when the commercials don't tell the entire story about their product and when advertisers support the news media, resulting in an effective corporate line-item veto of the news. Armies of unproductive laborers work feverishly to find the most effective ways to subliminally influence consumer behavior.

Advertising has no compelling justification, especially considering the costs for society....The best way to control health care costs, encourage family values, save the environment, make the media impartial, increase productivity, increase the standard of living, create jobs and encourage democracy is to ban all advertising.

Steven Diamond

Dover, N.H.

The secret's out

Why did Rance Crain explain how Nissan could solve the Datsun problem (AA, Aug. 19)? It's a pretty obvious answer once you think of it, but we have a $10 pool on how long it would take them to figure it out.

Now he's blown the whole thing.

Tom Whitehead

Merrill & Whitehead Corp.

Chalfont, Pa.

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