To whom it may concern:

Patrick Griffin’s “Let’s Ban Smoking Outright” article [March 18] is off the mark when attempting to compare smoking bans with Prohibition.

Former surgeon general Dr. C. Everett Koop has expressed a goal of having a smoke-free society by the year 2000. This does not mean a complete ban on smoking. What it does mean is that the nation’s 46 million smokers would not be free to light up in the presence of other persons without their permission. The more than 200 million American nonsmokers would be spared exposure to the carcinogens and toxins of poisonous secondary tobacco smoke.

Basically, smokers would be free to smoke in nonpublic places such as on their own property. Such restrictions, coupled with bans on advertising and a heavy cigarette tax increase, would discourage teens from beginning this lethal habit and encourage adults to cease smoking. These steps would reduce over time the number of smokers and thus the adverse impact of smoking on the health of Americans.

The Volstead Act or Prohibition prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. Unlike Prohibition, where a large percentage of Americans drank alcoholic beverages, only about 26 percent of American adults and less than 20 percent of all Americans smoke. Moreover, a reasonable amount of consumption of alcoholic beverages does not normally harm others; however, secondary tobacco smoke kills thousands of innocent victims each year and renders many more seriously ill.

Edward L. Koven

Highland Park