“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 stores.
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.