Dr Keith Ball: Anti-smoking campaigner
Saturday 15 March 2008
Keith Ball, a consultant cardiologist at the Middlesex Hospital, was an early campaigner against smoking and was among those who persuaded the Royal College of Physicians to expose the dangers of tobacco, leading to the 1962 report Smoking and Health. He collaborated with Tom Hurst, Secretary of the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, in galvanising the National Society of Non-Smokers as a campaigning lay group, and when Hurst went on to form the International Network Towards Smoke-Free Hospitals, he supported this too. Ball was co-founder in 1971 of the group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) and in 1987 of the National Heart Forum.
Ball was a dentist's son. Born in 1915, he went to the Middlesex Hospital Medical School from Bishop's Stortford School and became a senior registrar at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, returning to the Middlesex as a senior registrar during the London Blitz. Volunteering for Unrra, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Authority, in 1944, he worked after the war in Germany among the refugees and survivors of enforced labour and concentration camps.
With this eye-opener to the social aspects of disease, he returned to be consultant physician at the Central Middlesex Hospital, and to push the preventive side of medicine, against the prevailing mood of many colleagues. He did have allies, notably Dr Horace Joules, superintendent of the Central Middlesex, and was helped in his campaigning by his sense of humour. Among his many papers, "Deception among Smokers", published in the British Medical Journal in 1978, was a classic.
Retiring from clinical practice at 60, Ball moved laterally to an academic career, becoming a senior lecturer in community medicine at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, London University. In 1986, in the high-altitude Indian state of Jammu-Kasmir, Ball was one of the founders of Ladakh Action on Smoking and Health and helped to create the Ladakh Institute for Prevention to help the fast-changing pastoral community in the Himalayas avoid the diseases of industrialised nations.
As a young doctor Ball had been rejected for military service because of tuberculosis, but at his 80th birthday party blew out all 80 candles.
Keith Percy Ball, medical practitioner and anti-smoking campaigner: born Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire 8 December 1915; OBE 1985; married (three daughters, and one son deceased); died London 10 January 2008.
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