MW: Marlboro Week, perhaps?

Do I detect a hint of bias towards the tobacco advertising industry – and the media which carry their ads – in your editorial stance?

The article by Iain Murray (MW June 28) and now the letter from tobacco apologist Josephine Graffikin (MW July 5) would seem to suggest that this is the case.

Taking Ms Graffikin’s argument first: is the tobacco industry completely potty or does it, as she implies, really spend millions on advertising to no avail? Let’s face it, the argument about using advertising merely to gain market share is a red herring. Smoking kills 120,000 people each year. New recruits are needed to replace the dead customers. Does Ms Graffikin really want us to believe that tobacco companies would be happy to leave this recruitment to peer pressure? Come off it.

The argument about health warnings is equally feeble. It is one of the bizarre things about warnings that they can make advertisements more noticeable. Certainly, the warnings directly associate the ads with smoking and catalyse some of the more obscure executions. Should the Government need to relay public information about the dangers of smoking, they would, doubtless, be able to scrape together a few million pounds to run a campaign of their own.

The old chestnut about setting a precedent is also rather predictable and tired. Tobacco is unique in the damage it does to health. To link tobacco with alcohol, fatty foods and fast cars is a diversion from the stark statistics showing just how deadly smoking is. Perhaps Ms Graffikin can advise us just how many carcinogens there are in a digestive biscuit compared with a cigarette? Or maybe she could enlighten us as to how many people are killed by fast cars each year compared with those killed by diseases directly linked to smoking?

Turning to Iain Murray: it is a sadness that an otherwise witty (and, I supposed, professional) journalist should have sunk so low. Frankly, his piece fails on so many of the most basic standards of journalism as to be a disgrace. It is not funny, it is rather sad.

Mr Murray bases his opening argument (such as it is) around free choice. He conveniently ignores the addictive qualities of tobacco and the fact that, beyond the first few cigarettes, the free choice of the smoker is limited by his/her physical dependence upon nicotine.

Murray’s case is then further undermined by a rant against the anti-smoking lobby. When he finally gets to the point, he quotes figures that he freely admits he cannot be bothered to check. Even an average GCSE student would have spent five minutes on the Internet looking up the figures and checking the facts. Is this journalism or simply space-filling?

The comparison with Andrew Parkinson’s book is cheap and pointless. It offers no valid information, argument or comparison to contribute to Murray’s support of tobacco advertising. It simply trivialises the whole subject. And to trivialise such a serious issue is a disgrace to your magazine. Would you allow Murray to address the issues surrounding HIV in such a way? I doubt it.

How about a serious debate and some balanced journalism?

Jolyon Neely

Horsley

Gloucestershire

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