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Saturday, 7 October, 2000, 00:29 GMT 01:29 UK
Doctors 'must fight tobacco barons'
Stubbing out
Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer
Cancer doctors have been urged to take the lead in the campaign for stricter tobacco industry controls.

Professor David Kerr, an internationally renowned expert on lung cancer, believes that with the tobacco industry fighting attempts to clampdown on its operations, the time has come for doctors to take a more pro-active stance.

Professor Kerr's comments follow the decision of the European Court of Justice to overturn the EU Directive banning tobacco advertising.

They also follow a report which calls into question the advertising tactics of the tobacco industry.

Findings of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research report
The aim of tobacco advertising is to increase consumption as well as brand share
Other strategies include undermining government policy and evading regulation
The young are a key target
Smokers' intelligence is questioned, and in one instance they are referred to as slobs
Health issues are avoided

The report was compiled by the Centre for Tobacco Control Research (CTCR) at Strathclyde University, which was asked to analyse internal documents produced by advertising agencies working for the tobacco industry.

The documents were obtained by the Commons Health Select Committee as part of its investigation into the conduct of the tobacco industry.

The CTCR found evidence that the tobacco industry targets advertising at the most vulnerable members of society, including the young.

The accusations have been dismissed by John Carlisle, of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, who said most of the suggested advertising ideas contained in the documents were rejected by the industry on the grounds that they were "unsuitable, silly and well outside the advertising standards criteria".

Backing government

However, Professor Kerr believes it is now vital that cancer doctors throw their weight behind the attempts by the European Parliament and the British government to reduce tobacco advertising.

Professor Kerr is editor-in-chief of the journal Annals of Oncology. The latest edition contains a report which suggests doctors campaign for the following action:

  • enforceable limits on the amounts of nicotine and the toxic chemicals that are found in cigarettes, which could gradually be lowered to lessen the damage done by smoking
  • tobacco companies should be forced to disclose all the chemicals that go into making their products
  • alternative nicotine products such as patches, which are currently sold by pharmacies, should be made more freely available since they are a less dangerous alternative to smoking
Professor Kerr, also director of the Cancer Research Campaign's Clinical Trials Unit at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, said: "Cancer doctors are faced with the damage done by the tobacco industry to their patients every day and this puts them in a strong position to initiate tougher standards.

"Cancer doctors are only human and some of them are also smokers.

"But they can use their position to set an example by ensuring that their meetings are non-smoking and that help and advice for giving up is freely available to them to pass on to their patients."

Professor Gordon McVie, CRC director general, said lung cancer - largely caused by smoking - was now the commonest cancer worldwide.

He said: "In the UK alone there are around 40,000 new cases each year, and it has now overtaken breast cancer as the main cause of cancer death in British women.

"There is now a groundswell of opinion from public and professionals alike that we have had enough of the industry's scant regard for the truth.

"We are wising up their devious and underhand tactics and the government has to listen."

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