Letter: Smokers always knew the risks

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The Independent Online
Sir: I don't smoke; I've never smoked. And the reason is that when I was about eight, my mother, who did smoke very heavily, showed me the "tissue test". In this, she blew uninhaled cigarette smoke through a tissue as compared to inhaled smoke. She showed me the brown mark from the uninhaled smoke, and explained forcefully that every time she drew smoke into her lungs, that "beastly stuff" stayed there. "My lungs," she said, "are like sponges soaked with disgusting tar."

This was not in the Sixties or Seventies. It was not in the Forties or Fifties. It was in the Thirties. And my mother, and all her generation, knew perfectly well what they were doing to themselves. How else did they explain their "smokers' coughs"? Why else did they offer each other "coffin- nails"?

I hate to come to the aid of the tobacco industry, but fair's fair. It is utter nonsense for what you laughably call "early smokers" to claim they did didn't know that smoking damaged their health (report, 6 March). King James I knew how bad tobacco was for you when it first hit these shores.

If the tobacco companies were not so busy trying to pretend that smoking is not dangerous, and called upon old smokers or elderly people whose parents smoked to give evidence that it was well-known that smoking damaged your health and was related to fatal illness, they would have a better case for seeing off these who claim they followed fashion in the Forties and Fifties without knowing the dangers.


Beominster, Dorset