Letter: Government ignores cigarette advertising's sad results

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was saddened to read that Brian Mawhinney, this government's Health Minister, had failed to advocate a ban on tobacco advertising ('Minister rejects ban on tobacco advertising', 8 February).

Tobacco smoking is a major causative factor in many diseases and it imposes a great financial burden on our society. One of the least publicised of the diseases caused by cigarette smoking is mouth cancer.

At least 1,500 patients die each year in the United Kingdom from this tumour. It also exacts a high emotional price from patients and their relatives because it profoundly affects facial appearance, speech and eating.

Mouth cancer is a curable disease, with little in the way of side- effects, if it is diagnosed and treated at an early stage. Unfortunately, it has a high death rate in this country because patients, 80 per cent of whom have never heard of the disease before diagnosis, present with advanced, incurable tumours, usually associated with a lifetime cigarette habit.

In the past, our governments have instituted preventive programmes to improve the health of the population. This government has lavished money on a glossy brochure entitled The Health of the Nation in which it has set targets to reduce bad habits in the population, such as cigarette smoking.

This is laudable, but must be supported by more active measures. In this particular case, it has missed a golden opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to reducing cigarette smoking by unreservedly supporting Kevin Barron's Private Member's Bill.

It has failed to provide the leadership we expect in such an important matter. Perhaps this government is frightened of taking on the powerful tobacco lobby and of losing revenue from tobacco taxation.

Yours faithfully,

IAIN HUTCHISON

Consultant Facial and Oral Surgeon

St Bartholomew's and

Homerton Hospitals

London, EC1

9 February

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