U.S. Seeks Tobacco Settlement

The announcement by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft that the government is preparing to settle its suit against the tobacco companies severely undercuts the Justice Department's work in that regard (June 20). To make such a proposal so early in the process can only be regarded as caving in to the industry. Expressing doubt so publicly that the government could prevail in its suit certainly indicates that the administration is, once again, favoring industrial interests over the well-being of people.

Tobacco control, toward which the suit has been a significant step, is a high-priority health measure that the American people strongly support. Ashcroft's announcement throws in the towel in a struggle that the Justice Department has properly undertaken.

Lester Breslow MD, MPH

UCLA School of Public Health

I commend the Justice Department's decision to seek a reasonable settlement with the tobacco industry. I believe that any impropriety on the part of tobacco industry executives should be investigated and prosecuted within the confines of our criminal justice system. However, I fail to see the justice in financially rewarding individuals who lack the personal courage to take responsibility for their own actions.

Financially fracturing the industry ultimately hurts lower-and middle-income employees of these companies and not those responsible for the collusion. The indirect message being sent to our youth is that they can one day amass a large amount of wealth if they act irresponsibly by smoking cigarettes. This should be an issue of accountability on everyone's part, rather than money.

John P. Beddia

North Hollywood

Bravo, John Balzar ("Crimes on Tobacco Road," Commentary, June 24)! Balzar makes the objective point that faceless, inanimate corporations don't commit crimes, people do--the men and women who work for and run tobacco companies. Therefore, we should hold those people personally responsible, just as we do those who plot to harm us with guns. After all, they indeed are knowingly "wrapping bullets in paper and killing us."

To those readers who feel the manufacture and sale of tobacco is a crime against humanity, write a note today to one of your politicians in Washington who is responsible for perpetuating this travesty. Tell him or her how you feel and make a concrete recommendation (putting nicotine products under full FDA jurisdiction is a good example). Then, as you seal your letter, think to yourself: This one is for you, Mom. Dad. Husband. Wife. Brother. Sister. Friend.

Donald Funk

Redondo Beach

Balzar is so involved with blaming the tobacco companies for his nicotine cravings that he forgot to thank them for the zillion moments of pleasure that tobacco has given him.

Donald L. Hager

Los Angeles

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