DEAR ABBY: How tragically ironic that your column advocating concealing the cause of death to spare the feelings of the survivors appeared in the same issue of the Los Angeles Times as the obituary of the famous actor, James Franciscus, dead of emphysema at 57. I am happy to report that Burt Folkart's fine obituary plainly stated that Franciscus was a heavy smoker!
I tend to agree with your position -- with one glaring exception: When a prominent person dies of lung cancer, emphysema, pneumonia, or any other smoking-related disease -- (Ed Murrow, Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Nat Cole, Harry James, Lucille Ball, John Wayne, Zeppo Marx, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Sammy Davis, et al -- the list is endless), to suppress the fact that the deceased was a nicotine addict (as they almost always are), is to play into the hands of the cigarette manufacturers.
By the same token, juvenile criminals should always be identified, no matter how young. Perpetrators of adult crimes should be treated like adults, not coddled by the news media.
Incidentally, I am a retired dentist who has always told my smoking patients to worry less about the ugly brown stain on their teeth and more about the possibility of premature tobacco-caused death. -- MARVIN H. LEAF, D.D.S., LOS ANGELES
DEAR DR. LEAF: You said a mouthful.