Up in smoke
Head to head Are cigars the ultimate pleasure or a noxious evil? Sir Jimmy Savile is still puffing away a year after his heart bypass; Edwina Currie continues to fume at the filthy weed
Saturday 15 August 1998
"The cigar launched me into a most spectacular career of showbiz. When you start off life skint, which I did, and you walk around with a cigar, people think you are loaded. And they will do things for you that they wouldn't dream of doing if they thought you were skint. My cigar in the early days was a gimmick. I was a racing cyclist and I would arrive on the start line with a cigar and was immediately christened the Duke. It was the Tour of Britain, and in 1951 I was riding for Yorkshire. It started in London and all of a sudden there I was on the front page of the Daily Express ... `The Duke on the Tour of Britain'. When I got to Plymouth people came up to me and said, `Have a cigar, Your Grace.'
I wouldn't want to give up. There's absolutely no reason to, because my particular type of smoking is not injurious at all. I've managed three score years and 10. I know many people who didn't even make it that far who lived abstemious lives - nothing wrong ever passed their mouths. I eat junk food, smoke cigars and run marathons [including next week's Great Scottish Run].
I smoke about five a day. I've never had anybody objecting to me smoking cigars anywhere. When non-smokers try to dictate to other people I say, `Excuse me, we all fought a war to make it a free country, so you do your thing and I'll do mine.' If I takes the choice I pays the price and everybody can piss off and mind their own business and leave me to it.
I've no compulsion to smoke, but when I wake up in the morning I think, `Wow! I've made it again.' Then I get up, put the kettle on and light up. I'm still just as busy as before the heart bypass operation. It's the cigars that give me the strength."
"I'm an asthmatic. I can't put up with a smoky atmosphere, I leave. The worst is at very big expensive dinners, banquets, where somebody may light up a cigar. That I regard as desperately anti-social. They should be confined to a small box. They're disgusting, they make a dreadful, dreadful pong.
The idea that they're safer than cigarettes is nonsense. Robert Adley, who was a Member of Parliament, hadn't smoked cigarettes for many, many years, but he smoked cigarellas, which are seen as a small cigar, and he dropped dead at the age of 58. A great loss, he was a lovely man. All the research has been on whether or not the smoke is inhaled, and cigar smoke on the whole is not, but it's much more powerful, more raw, than cigarettes.
I won't talk to people who are smoking. A look of distaste curls my lip and I walk away. If they want to talk to me they can wait till they've finished. They stink to high heaven. I don't think people who smoke realise how unattractive they become. They've got brown teeth, brown nails - horrible! They look like convicts.
Cigars and cigarettes cause cancer, heart disease, shorten lives. They cause misery, pain, serious illness. My father died of smoking-related diseases. He had very severe hardening of the arteries and died of a heart attack at 65. What was really tragic was that he suffered so much for years beforehand in what should have been some of his best years, when his children were teenagers.
I would be very happy to see tobacco sponsorship and advertising done away with completely, and the sooner the better ... I'd like to see people stop, and then it wouldn't be a problem for any of us."
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