Vital Signs

Dr. Koop on Life, Liberty, and a 'Smoke-Free' America

Recently the Tobacco Institute, a lobbying outfit pleading the case for the tobacco industry, has been placing ads in numerous publications complaining about the harshness with which the government is fighting cigarette smoking. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has been a vigilant soldier in the government's fight. But it is very probable that he has gone way beyond the call of duty in what he is willing to say and do about many Americans' choice to smoke cigarettes.

Dr. Koop is a good case in point as to why, despite the very attractive rhetoric of President Ronald Reagan, that kind of conservative administration is far from a true friend of individual freedom. President Reagan's employment of Dr. Koop is clear evidence that the actual policies endorsed by the Reagan administration toward people who choose to live their lives differently from Dr. Koop are quite dangerous to the very ideals Ronald Reagan claims to have been championing.

Consider that Dr. Koop is the person who said he "wants a smoke-free America by 1990." This sounds like an out-and-out threat to the liberty of a great many people who might not choose to quit smoking in the next year and a half It is clearly an utterance with dictatorial overtones.

But perhaps Dr. Koop allowed himself some hyperbole. He may simply have meant that this is what he wishes would happen by 1990—that people would have quit smoking cigarettes.


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