Smoking 101:

Introduction to Preventable Death

Declaring that "history is on the side of the non-smoker," Surgeon General Everett Koop yesterday told an audience of about 60 at the Kennedy School of Government that smoking may disappear in the United States.

Speaking at a symposium called, "Tobacco, Smoking and Health Policy," Koop was joined by Thomas Schelling, director of Harvard's Institute for the Study of Smoking Behavior and Policy, and two other health policy experts.

Each speaker expressed optimism that the war against smoking could be won sometime in the next century.

Schelling said that if the trend of the past 20 years is any indication, smoking may disappear in the United States in 50 years. He cited the notable decline during the past two decades in the number of people who begin smoking, as well as an increase in the number of people who have quit.

Koop called smoking the "leading preventable cause of disease and death in this country," and expressed hope that leaders of the tobacco industry could learn to thrive in a business environment "that enhances life and not the kind that invites death."

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense J. Jarrett Clinton justified the sale of tobacco products in military commissaries and exchanges at prices between 20 and 35 percent below those of the private sector, despite studies that estimated as much as a 10 percent reduction in smoking among military personnel if these discounts were eliminated. Clinton said that inexpensive tobacco products are important for morale and retention. Despite the continuing sales, he said the Department of Defense has implemented an "intense campaign" to limit smoking in military life and provide programs for those trying to quit the habit.

Dr. Tenley E. Albright, an officer at the Advanced Medical Research Foundation, said preventive medicine is the most effective tool in fighting smoking. Since "nobody likes a cigarette the first time," it is important to deglamorize smoking to young adults and erect obstacles such as higher insurance bills and public smoking ordinances to discourage smoking, she said.

Albright emphasized the new no-smoking policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, which prompted Schelling to predict that next year "very, very serious regulations on smoking will have been put into effect by the Kennedy School, by the city of Cambridge and by the state of Massachusetts."