Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

I must take exception to Joe Eszterhas’ recent guest column (“Stars must quit on-screen ciggies,” Dec. 11). Eszterhas suggest that stars who smoke on-screen “escalate the concept of second-hand smoke to horrifying, genocidal levels.” Unfortunately, putting them in this framework of “morally bankrupt” is not compassionate or constructive in addressing the realities of nicotine addiction.

It seems that the extremists of the anti-tobacco movement, among whose ranks Eszterhas is now numbered, want to threaten our stars’ livelihoods and incomes because they choose to portray characters who smoke.

Don’t let his attempts to separate himself from his fellow militants fool you into thinking he cares about your careers. His warning is designed to appear like a collegial heart-to-heart, but it is in actuality an outright threat to your creative freedoms.

 At a recent national anti-tobacco conference, I represented our industry’s interests to the advocacy community on a panel addressing tobacco use on-screen. A speaker on an earlier panel that day had suggested that the influence of Big Tobacco on our industry would soon rear its ugly head. They will manipulate our industry from behind the scenes, he warned, to get us to perceive this issue as an encroachment on free speech!

I hate to tell you, Joe, but we don’t need the tobacco industry to cause us to cry “censorship”. A fellow by the name of Joseph McCarthy accomplished that over half a century ago. We need no convincing that this is a free speech issue. It’s already in our faces as nothing but.

On-screen smoking doesn’t kill people. Real-life smoking does. Attacking our industry like we are an extension of the tobacco industry is insulting to creators and performers who have made certain choices based on creative considerations. It is insensitive to performers who, like other smokers, need support in quitting, not ostracizing for their addiction to nicotine. It is chilling in its potential effect on the creative process and the precedent it sets for other special interest issues.

Larry Deutchman

Sr. VP Marketing & Industry Relations, Entertainment Industries Council Inc.

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