Monarch stubs out tobacco warrant

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ANTI-SMOKING campaigners yesterday applauded the Queen for withdrawing the royal warrant from Gallaher, the largest producer of cigarettes for the UK market. The Weybridge-based company produces Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut and Hamlet cigars.

The royal warrant was the ultimate product endorsement and its retraction was long overdue, said Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health.

"We're delighted. There is nothing better than the Queen lending her coat of arms to your product. I can't pretend that it's going to stop smoking but it is another blow to tobacco companies."

The move was also welcomed by the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Fiona Castle said she had written to the Queen to plead with her to withdraw support for Britain's tobacco companies.

"It was inappropriate in this enlightened age that she was seen to be supporting tobacco companies by allowing them the royal warrant. This is a great step forward,"

Ray Donnelly, the organisation's founder and medical director, said the decision indicated the Palace had finally fallen in line with majority opinion in the country.

"When the highest authority in the land appeared to approve of cigarettes it left us with our hands tied ... in the battle to stop young people smoking," he said.

Gallaher's corporate-affairs manager, Jeff Jeffery, said granting the royal warrant was "a matter for the royal household. Beyond that we do not want to comment."

Smoking causes the premature deaths of 120,000 people in Britain each year. An estimated 12 million Britons smoke, amounting to 28 per cent of the population. At the end of the Second World War more than 80 per cent of British men smoked, said Peter McCabe, chief executive of Quit, which helps people to stop.

Quitline can be contacted on 0800 002200.