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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 17:50 GMT
Danish royals angry at cancer accusation
Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik
Unrepentant: Queen Margrethe is well-known as a chain-smoker
By Julian Isherwood in Copenhagen

The husband of the Queen of Denmark has reacted strongly to suggestions that the high number of Danish women who die from smoking could be linked to the fact that his wife is a smoker.

Queen Margrethe II's heavy smoking habit was thrust into the realms of international debate when an article in the British medical journal, The Lancet, suggested a possible link between deaths from smoking among Danish women and the queen's ascension to the throne in 1953.

Political correctness leads to neo-puritanism - and no-one wants that

Royal Consort
Prince Henrik
"If people want to die of smoking then that's their business," the Royal Consort, Prince Henrik, was reported as saying.

"One should not be over-impressed or affected by what may or may not be politically correct.... Political correctness leads to neo-puritanism - and no-one wants that," the prince, who no longer smokes, told journalists.

The Lancet report, by Belgian academic Hugo Kesteloot, said Queen Margrethe's smoking could help explain why the number of cancer deaths, which had been falling, started rising again five years after she came to the throne.

Role model

"The queen is very popular in Denmark and a known cigarette smoker. As a role model for women, the queen's example could offer an explanation for the unusual mortality in Danish women," said the article.

The issue made headlines in one of Copenhagen's main tabloid newspapers, sparking a national debate into which the queen herself was drawn.

It is a somewhat sensational way of publicising something that most of us know - that many Danish women smoke

Queen Margrethe
"People may discuss what they wish," Queen Margrethe told a group of Finnish journalists who were in Denmark ahead of a visit by the Finnish president.

"It is a somewhat sensational way of publicising something that most of us know - that many Danish women smoke," she said.

"Most Danes believe that people should be allowed to do what they wish," she added.

The queen's comments came during a 30-minute press conference, during which she smoked two cigarettes.

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