LETTER: Starting point for ending bad habit

From Dr Graham F. Cope

Sir: Smoking is a minority activity. Even if Brian Appleyard's assumptions are right ("The anti-smoking fundamentalists", 8 March) , that many people are casual smokers, it still means 50 per cent of people never smoke, and wish to avoid smokey atmospheres. And because of the minority, the majority have to suffer the consequences. The health risks of passive smoking are far from proven, but why should I suffer irritation to eyes and throat, and stink of smoke because of a few selfish individuals?

Anecdotal evidence is the bane of all anti-smoking professionals. How do we convince a smoker whose grandfather is 92 and smokes like a chimney of the harm of smoking? I just say "tell that to the widow of the man who died of a heart attack at 35, as a direct result of smoking".

Secret smoking is a problem, but we have addressed this problem. Tests will soon be available to detect and measure cigarette smoking, and will be carried out by doctors, nurses and insurance agents. But, as Mr Appleyard says, the heavy-handed approach does not work. Smokers have to be educated over a long period to quit the habit. Nearly 80 per cent of smokers want to stop, but don't have the willpower or motivation. It is a major role of the medical profession to convince smokers that not smoking is the best thing they can do to improve their health, which will lead to improved happiness and well-being.

No Smoking Day provides a starting point for smokers to quit and improve their health immeasurably. Health campaigns are working. Smoking is on the decline. But this is counteracted by tobacco advertising and the portrayal of smoking on television and films.

Yours,

GRAHAM F. COPE

University of Birmingham

Birmingham

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