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Tibor Sharinger, Hungary
"I don't think its an addiction."
 real 28k

Nick Cendrowicz, Belgium
"Its very clearly a question of public health - this is an epidemic."
 real 28k

Ben Crosskill, Canada
"Diseased lungs on cigarette packaging has been effective."
 real 28k

Bill Amira, Kenya
"We all know that smoking is not good for you."
 real 28k

Andy Sutton, UK
"It's down to the individual at the end of the day."
 real 28k

Dr Jaynad Vaidya, UK
"The tobacco industries have to replenish the 3 million people it loses each year"
 real 28k

Barry Pitt, Amsterdam
"The only reason why people smoke is to have something in their hands."
 real 28k

Sunday, 27 May, 2001, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Smoking: Personal choice or public health issue?

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air

Pictures of diseased lungs and rotten teeth could soon be appearing on the front of cigarette packs in Europe.

The European Parliament has approved the use of such shock tactics to try to get people to kick the habit.

Governments in developed countries are trying to reduce smoking through advertising restrictions and court action against the tobacco industry. But they are also increasingly reliant on the billions they collect on taxes from cigarette smokers.

Can they do both or are they guilty of hypocrisy?

Tobacco companies are expanding their markets in places, such as India and China, where regulation is less severe. They claim they are creating wealth and employment through a legitimate business.

But are their promotional methods justified? And more generally, is smoking a personal choice or a public health issue that has to be regulated?

We discussed this issue on Talking Point ON AIR, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online. Diana Madill was joined by anti-smoking campaigner Doreen MacIntyre.

  • Read what you have said since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme

    This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.

    Your comments since the programme

    Prohibition of alcohol in 1920s America did not work any more than the current prohibition of certain drugs. All responsible governments can do is to tax and ban advertising and promotion of harmful and unhealthy substances like tobacco, alcohol, other drugs and meat. When the whole of society is expected to pay for medical treatment of users and their victims, and all the other karmic consequences, then it is certainly not just a matter of personal choice.
    Arjuna Krishna-Das, Bristol, UK

    Banning anything just drives it underground

    Adam, Coventry, England
    Banning anything just drives it underground, and into the hands of criminals. Smoking in public places should be barred, with hefty fines for publicans and restaurateurs who do not enforce such rules. I would also increase the price of 20 fags by another pound, with all such tax going straight to the NHS. Smokers would also be legally required to make provision for private health care, in the event of them contracting any smoking related diseases. As a lifelong non-smoker, I have no objection to anyone wanting to smoke. I just object to being forced to share their habit.
    Adam, Coventry, England

    Cigarettes or rather the tax they raise (stealthy or otherwise) is crucial to pay for the diseases that a smoker will catch. Keep cigarettes, tax them harder across all of Europe, thus defeating the smugglers, and treat it like a health insurance so their medical care will be self funded. I don't want to stop people smoking, but I object quite strongly that my taxes will be funding the medical care that smokers WILL require. I'm sure private medical insurance reflects this, so why must the innocent (non-smoking) taxpayer suffer?
    Alex Davies, London, England

    We in the "civilised" world tend to live in democratic nations where people have the freedom of choice. By all means let people smoke (the tax they pay actually pays for the health service more than once over in the UK) but give people the freedom not to smoke also. Restaurants, pubs etc. should provide spaces for both smokers and non-smokers, with communal areas being non-smoking. Where they are unable to provide separate smoking/non-smoking facilities, they should be completely non-smoking by regulation.
    Andy, Hove, UK

    Smoking inhabits both the public and private spheres

    Chris Packett, Wakefield, England
    What's wrong with a little "live and let live"? What we should be striving for is informed choice in society. Smoking inhabits both the public and private spheres; without meaning to use a government cliché, it is about rights and responsibilities, acknowledging that the weight of your personal opinion has to be balanced against that of the rest of the public.
    Chris Packett, Wakefield, England

    As a non-smoker, my interpretation of the habit is still one of glamour, status and fashion. There may be a hundred pictures of gruesome body parts, but one image of an attractive person smoking makes the young forget about the former and attempt to feel like, or be the latter. Actors do it, models do it, pop stars do it - it's all very well using imagery to try to deter potential smokers, but it is imagery that makes people want to smoke, especially when "the beautiful people" are doing it.
    Peter Snowdon, Birmingham, UK

    In Canada, we already have those gruesome illustrations on the front of cigarette packets but they don't do a bit of good at all. If a person smokes, those depictions are not going to deter them one iota. I am tired of being over-regulated by governments, especially when nothing much is done about drink-driving and the tragic consequences that it entails. If governments want to save lives, then they should concentrate on banning liquor and consider printing gory illustrations on every bottle of intoxicating liquor. While they are at it -they might as well ban the use of garlic so that the rest of us are not suffocated by the incredible and offensive odour that emanates from someone who has ingested it.
    K, Canada

    When will smokers realise that their habit is just plain disgusting?

    Philip, London, UK
    When will smokers realise that their habit is just plain disgusting? And it's not only the smoke that smells, smokers do all the time. Ban smoking and smokers from certain public places, make them feel like outcasts and then maybe the message might get across.
    Philip, London, UK

    Do those who oppose paying for the health care of smokers also oppose paying for the treatment of heart disease, joint replacements, cervical cancer, trauma victims etc? All of these are contributed to by "personal choice". What about suicide attempts and pregnancy? If there is a stupider or less fair idea, I haven't heard it. Something about glass houses comes to mind.
    Dr. Michael, Rochester, USA

    I am a smoker. I started when I was too young to realise the dangers but I don't smoke in my house, or near any of my children and never smoked while I was pregnant. I hate to see women smoking with a bump in front of them - they are the selfish ones. And if anyone who comes into my house wants to smoke, they to have to go outside. But I do get angry with these people who seem to think they are better than me and make out that I shouldn't have the right to smoke. Well, if that's the case, they should be made to walk everywhere. I cannot drive a car but I have to breathe all the fumes from the cars that pass me. So you see it goes both ways. You car drivers who are non-smokers, you're just as bad.
    Ally, Hull, UK

    Warnings never affected me

    Dave M, Wales UK
    I smoked for nearly 24 years, (from aged 14) and gave up when I was 38. I smoked at least 40 a day. I gave up because I wanted too, I started because all the advertising made me feel grown up and 'big'. Warnings never affected me, I just felt awful when I got up in the morning. Stark adverts will not stop people taking up smoking - a ban on all tobacco advertising, and a reduction in it being shown as glamorous will. I speak as someone who has experienced the effects, cause and behavioural influences. The politicians of this and other countries will never ban the sponsorship, and advertising whilst they still get huge bribes from the tobacco companies.
    Dave M, Wales UK

    Everyone agrees that smoking is bad for health and that Governments have a duty to try to persuade people to give up or better not start smoking. But the EU proposals to show gruesome pictures on cigarette packets goes too far.

    The British Government tried similar scare tactics with its early HIV/AIDS education campaigns which featured pictures of tombstones and the grim reaper. It was a total failure. Young people in particular are not persuaded by images of illness and death which they feel will never affect them. It is far better to concentrate on things that matter to them - their looks and perceived attractiveness to members of their peer group. Anti-tobacco advertising needs to reinforce images that it is not cool to smoke - not that it kills you, even if it does.
    Stephen Mattinson, Steyning, England

    We should not separate one version of unhealthy air pollution from other forms such as industrial of vehicle pollution. Will those non-smokers who are so concerned about suffering health problems as a result of smoking, please refrain from polluting the air with their vehicles. I find it very easy to avoid polluted air from smokers, but impossible from vehicles yet at the same time I have to pay taxes to subsidise the health problems caused by smoking and also the health problems caused by vehicle pollution - as well as the cost of accidents and the obesity-related health problems. Of course worse of all, is the obese, car-using smoker.
    Phil Jeremy, London

    Quite why tobacco should be unique in this way is not explained

    Guy Chapman, UK
    Unfortunately the personal choice of a smoker to smoke in public voids the personal choice of all others in the vicinity, not to. Since smoking is known to cause disease, not least triggering asthma attacks in those who are susceptible, a ban on smoking in public is more to do with enforcing common courtesy than restricting freedom of choice. To tax tobacco while advising against it is not hypocritical. Smokers cost the country large sums of money, and as a means of discouraging smoking high excise duties appear to have some effect - the number of people who give up after each successive budget is testimony to this. If you believe the tobacco companies, of course, advertising doesn't encourage people to smoke anyway. Quite why tobacco should be unique in this way is not explained.
    Guy Chapman, UK

    As a non-smoker, I strongly feel smoking is a disgusting habit. Not only do they destroy their own health, smokers are the only group of people who seem to be able to get away with polluting closed environments i.e. offices, shops, restaurants and bars. They have the unique ability to impose their smelly habit on others. Most importantly they seem to have the given right to litter! Addiction is merely an excuse and weakness of the individual.
    P, London, UK

    Smoking is without doubt one of society's most critical health hazards. Smoking clearly should be banned from all public areas but in addition governments have a responsibility to protect the user from himself by restricting the manufacture of smoking devices. There are times when the common good - and common sense - outweigh any freedom of choice issues and smoking is one of them.
    Kenneth jessett, Houston, USA

    What I would like to say to the smokers is, first of all you are burning your money and then you are burning your insides. What is the point?
    Rayhan Uddin Samser, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

    Retailers should refuse to sell cigarettes

    Peter Haslett, Australia
    There is a simple solution to cut down the number of people smoking or even to starting to smoke - retailers should refuse to sell cigarettes. There is no need to ban tobacco or make it illegal, after all marijuana is banned but people get hold of it. If retailers refused to sell the cigarettes in the first place, then it would make it difficult for people to start.
    Peter Haslett, Australia

    I'm for a policy of mutual respect, where smokers aren't persecuted, but where non-smokers aren't overly exposed to smoke. With smoking/no-smoking areas, modern ventilation and a little common sense, you can solve 90% of the problem. Heavily discouraging on health grounds? What about fatty foods, fossil fuels, fast cars, alcohol, and sunbathing? Typical answer would probably be to discourage the ones that don't affect me.
    Mark, Vienna, Austria

    I find it strange that some people compare the problems of passive smoking with that of the pollution of cars. As far as I can tell, smoking is a voluntary pastime whereas, unfortunately, the use of the internal combustion engine is absolutely necessary for the continuance of the society we live in. In addition, there is a lot of research going into improving engines, to decrease emissions. What is being done by the tobacco companies to reduce the emissions of their products?
    James Hughes, Cambridge UK

    Smokers not only harm themselves, but other surrounding people

    Diaa Eldin, Omdurman Sudan
    People are born non-smokers, but they learn to do it later. Smokers not only harm themselves, but other surrounding people. I think we should struggle against smoking as well as other air polluting factors. Four million people die annually from tobacco-related diseases. Governments incur big amounts of money. This constitutes a high burden on the National Health Service. We need a strong international anti-tobacco treaty rather than a ban, because a ban pushes prices up, leads to illegal market and increases crime. So smoking, although it is a personal choice it is a public health problem with essential priority.
    Diaa Eldin, Omdurman Sudan

    It is obviously a lesser-known fact that the tax revenue generated from cigarette sales pays for the entire police budget of this country. In addition, as a rule smokers die younger than non-smokers hence saving the NHS a great deal of time and money, freeing up hospital beds for sanctimonious non-smokers. Is it the case that mountain climbers should be prevented from climbing, as their activities jeopardise their own safety? I think not. This country's laws are based on liberal traditions. Smoking mountain climbers' days are obviously numbered.
    Chris Rowley, London, England

    If someone wants to smoke in their house, that's fine by me, and personal to them - and their freedom of choice. If someone imposes their smoking on me or, worse, my young family in a public place, I find that objectionable. They are impacting on MY families right and freedom to breath clean air, and when you have never smoked, that means a lot.
    Phil W, Bristol, UK

    As a physician, an American citizen, and a fellow who lost his mother to tobacco, I would be grateful for my government's transferring its financial resources from anti-cocaine and marijuana effort to the much more desperate fight against smoking. Smoking is much more dangerous than pot or cocaine, and we are blowing billions in the wrong direction.
    Dr. Vance Rawlings, St. Paul, MN

    I live in Japan where cigarettes cost around 50 pence a packet. I can tell you that everyone smokes and it is almost unbearable in work and restaurants. I think smoking is not just a personal habit because it effects everyone around the smoker. It is a selfish and unhealthy act that should be regulated.
    Suzanne McMillan, Matsuyama, Japan

    All public smoking within enclosed areas should be banned

    Mike, London, (Australian)
    All public smoking within enclosed areas should be banned. Australia has pretty much banned smoking in all restaurants, bars, shopping malls and other public places. Contrary to the perception that this would result in lower patronage, these places are still making as much money as before. Certainly it is everyone's right to do what they please to their bodies, however with the medical proof on passive smoking it is not everyone's right to impose their habits on others.
    Mike, London, (Australian)

    I wonder if the European Parliament will also pass a law which requires pictures of half cooked brains to be placed on cell phones, pictures of diseased hearts and livers to be placed on alcohol and pictures of various cancerous growths to cover our cars?
    S. Moker, Scotland

    Cigarettes should be banned. A 'Just do it' kind of a scenario. The business is not legitimate: it sells misery and death. More money and energy has to be spent on trying to undo the smoking wrongs, than the supposed wealth it creates.
    Somnath Roy, Mumbai, India

    In as much as smoking could be seen as private choice, it constitutes public hazard. The activities of developing countries in reducing the rate of smoking should not be seen as an act of hypocrisy. Developed countries should be seen as such, because globalisation has made nonsense of the efforts made by the developing world.
    Linus, Nigeria

    Why do the anti-smoking lobby not stop using private cars if they are so worried about the effects of passive smoking? I am a smoker and fully accept that it can be unpleasant at times for other people but less so than having exhaust fumes spouting out even more hazardous chemicals. For this reason I choose to use public transport or a bicycle. None of the self-righteous non-smokers posting comments in this forum seem to appreciate that many of their daily activities and/or purchases contribute even more to the problem.
    Andrew McGrory, Hong Kong

    Any form of behaviour is permissible these days if it is directed towards a smoker

    Jon, Jakarta, Indonesia (Brit ex-pat) <
    I have been a smoker for the past 13 years and I agree that it is a horrible habit. I have tried and failed to give up twice. I hope and pray that I will succeed next time. I try very hard not to smoke in places where it will affect other people. However, I am constantly amazed by the rudeness of non-smokers (often ex-smokers themselves) towards me because of my bad habit. Because I do not smoke around these people, such comments are usually made when I don't have a cigarette in my hand. It seems that any form of behaviour is permissible these days if it is directed towards a smoker.

    Smoking is certainly a horrible habit and non-smokers have my every sympathy. Please remember, though, that rudeness, ignorance, hypocrisy and a lack of compassion are equally unattractive.
    Jon, Jakarta, Indonesia (Brit ex-pat)

    I'm a UK ex-pat currently living in San Francisco and can testify to the success of the anti-public area smoking rules enforced in California. The rules making smoking prohibited in places of work, bars, restaurants and public transport have had a knock-on effect resulting in a general decrease in the amount of smokers. It's rare to get a face full of smoke while walking along the street. That's not something that can be said of the UK, where the aroma of smoke is noticeable within minutes of leaving Heathrow. Incidentally, California recently reported a near 30% reduction in cases of lung cancer since the rules were introduced.
    Jonathan, San Francisco, USA (Ex-UK)

    The health implications of smoking, drastic though they appear to be, are the responsibilities of the smoker. In the context of environments shared by smokers and non-smokers, the issues are things like density of smoke, and time spent in the environment - for example, I refuse to believe that there can be serious health implications for a non-smoker sharing an open-air railway platform with a smoker for a few minutes, although I willingly accept the possibility of such implications for a non-smoker spending long periods of time in a dense smoky environment, perhaps a barman or such like.

    There is a need for simple compromise - surely those with a violent intolerance to smoke can order their lives in such a way as to fit in with the vast bulk of the population whose attitude to smoking lies somewhere on the scale between distaste and desire. The argument that smokers should be forced to somehow pay for medical treatment in the event of smoking-related illness is laughable - indirect taxation on tobacco products in the UK draws in a huge surplus over out goings on tobacco-related illness.
    Paddy, N Ireland

    I have two secondary points regarding this issue. Many people in this discussion have suggested banning or increasing tax on tobacco to stop people smoking. This simply doesn't work, if tax goes up, black market trade goes up. If it is prohibited it will become like any other illegal drug. I agree that addictive drugs are bad for society over all, but the problem must be solved culturally, not with legislation. Secondly several people so far have mentioned that eating GM food is unhealthy, as if this was a well-established fact. They compared it to smoking, when in fact it is a very tenuous conjecture, based on fear of the unknown and media hype.
    Pete Blacker, Manchester, UK

    My father has just given up smoking with no help from any drugs. As he always had a cigarette with his drink, he has overcome the craving by having a cake, biscuit or chocolate snack each time he has a drink. The side effect of this is that his weight is ballooning, hence it may not be the cigarettes that kill him but the obesity.
    Carol, England

    In a liberal society people should have the choice of life. Passive smoking cannot be cited as a reason to ban smoking unless all other pollutants are banned - for example cars.
    Robert, Bath, UK

    I am a bad asthmatic and many times I have had bad attacks due to stupid tyrants smoking in public places.
    Sean A. Walker, Preston, UK

    If someone is addicted the question of personal choice becomes invalid

    Daniel Bardwell, UK
    The question of personal choice and smoking is misleading. Most smokers are addicted to the nicotine present in cigarettes (whether they admit to it or not). If someone is addicted the question of personal choice becomes invalid, as those addicted will continue to smoke even when they want to stop.

    Daniel Bardwell, Hertfordshire, UK

    It's hard to understand why people spend around £2,000 a year on something to kill them self's. That's more than £100,000 in average lifetime. You can explore the world with that sort of money.
    Pesh, London,

    I would say 99% of people start smoking to show off, thinking it will give them a cool image, than they get addicted and find it very hard to quit. Lots of people might think the taxes, which are generated from tobacco, are very good for the Economy; in fact the cost of treating smokers from diseases is much higher.
    Johnny, London, UK

    I am fed up to the eyeballs with the hypocrisy of EU politicians and authorities. Walk into any European Union building here in Brussels and whilst there are no-smoking signs throughout, you bump into smokers at the reception desks, in the corridors and in offices. I am asthmatic and did not relish having puffs of smoke blown into my face on two occasions in the past few weeks in the said buildings.
    You can't even take what are known as "new generation trains" here in Belgium without sharing a carriage with smokers. The first 8 seats of each carriage are for smokers. There is absolutely no proper separation between smokers and non-smokers.
    Rose Marie Guifoyle, Brussels Belgium

    I think shock treatment can work at least to kick the glamour away from smoking

    Antonio de Luca, Canada
    I live in a house with three other people, who are heavy smokers. Personally I don't care if they are doing harm to their health or not but I'd like them to respect a little more my rights. I think smokers should be allowed to quit or keep on smoking at their own discretion. If people, in the year 2001, are deceived by advertising campaigns, I'm sorry but either the are big liars or too naive. Everybody knows smoking is unhealthy, but so is living in a polluted city, eating GM foods and wearing chemicals on the hair. The only way for changing is self-consciousness. No one can tell us to stop doing something but ourselves. I think shock treatment can work at least to kick the glamour away from smoking.
    Antonio de Luca, Canada

    From the discussions which have been going on, it is obvious that most people, even smokers themselves, are fed up with this revolting habit. The first steps which can be taken is a clear ban on smoking in public places and at work, as well as slowly but surly reducing the worldwide production of cigarettes. This may eventually see the end of the cigarettes. This of course has to be a worldwide government effort.
    Eytan, Manchester, UK

    Surely the main point about smoking is that those that wish to pursue their lives without having to breathe in the smoke of others should have the freedom to do so. When I take the Eurostar from Paris to London I have to walk through the smoking car to get to the buffet car: I should not have to do this. I can't go to pubs without breathing in smoke and my clothes reek of tobacco smoke.
    Howard Huxter France

    Your comments during the programme

    I watched my father die agonisingly from emphysema. Even when he knew it was killing him he would retire to the end of the garden for an illicit puff. So personally I could never smoke regularly. However, I can smoke occasionally without being addicted.
    But there is an another aspect. Smoking tobacco is a filthy habit and if you live in a non-smoking environment you cannot bear to go into a place which is contaminated by tobacco smoke.
    Peter Dean, France.

    The truth is that the tobacco lobby has played its cards well with the political powers that be, while no such corporate lobby ever existed for marijuana

    Jeff Granger, Chicago, USA
    I can't help but make the comparison in the USA between the relative laxity toward tobacco, which kills huge numbers of people annually, compared to marijuana, which has no proven lethal effect. Yet, hundreds of thousands of persons needlessly languish in U.S. jails because of marijuana possession. The truth is that the tobacco lobby has played its cards well with the political powers that be, while no such corporate lobby ever existed for marijuana.
    Jeff Granger, Chicago, USA

    A couple of years back the Swedish government drastically raised the tax on cigarettes and the number of smokers nose dived. Unfortunately so did the tax revenues, so, on pretext of making cigarette smuggling less lucrative, the tax was lowered again.
    Mark, Stockholm Sweden

    I'm a non-smoker and have been recently diagnosed with having asthma. Basically I choke on every thing which causes irritation to my breathing system - including smoke. I find it hard to go to places as bars, etc and not find a place for non-smokers.
    I think that the pictures of diseased parts of the body affected by smoking should be placed on packets & raise the price of purchase. What I'd like done is that all governments in the world should join in the effort to eradicate smoking completely. This way, the tobacco companies won't be able to prey on those in the developing world either.
    Nathalie Thorpe, Poland

    Shouldn't the dialogue surrounding smoking be predicated upon the facts? The fact is that smoking doesn't "cause" lung cancer, although it does multiply the risk that those prone to lung cancer will contract the disease.

    John Huettner, Cleveland, Ohio USA

    Just how much damage do you think that kind of second hand poising can do?

    Bob Kelly, UAE
    I am a smoker, I have no problem going to restaurants or other venues where smoking is not permitted. I accept that before I enter. But I really get fed up with people complaining about smokers and how bad it is for their health. Those very same people no doubt drive cars in cities and pollute the atmosphere that everyone else breathes with carbon monoxide. Just how much damage do you think that kind of second hand poising can do?
    Bob Kelly, UAE

    In Hong Kong there is already talk of setting up a 'Tobacco Control Force', with 'Tobacco Control Officers' able to take immediate steps against anyone alleged to be smoking.
    This seems to be a device to give the Government yet another means for immediate control of the populace - with all the dangers of yet another infringement of general public liberty and freedom. It seems to me to be a most dangerous step.
    Melville Boase, Hong Kong

    I started smoking at the age of 16 during the early 1950s. Smoking was made to seem attractive and normal by advertising, and particularly by movies. Peer pressure and chain-smoking parents were additional factors. Many 16-year-olds are not capable of "making that personal choice" as claimed by the tobacco companies. Their claim that tobacco advertising is simply informing the public is absurd nonsense. I made my personal choice when I was 30 and succeeded in quitting.
    While general banning is not practical, California's restrictions obviously are. I think that the compulsory negative advertising as approved by the European Parliament is a very good measure. Make it as gruesome as possible.
    John Berge, Lindesberg, Sweden,

    I feel that governments are acting very hypocritically; on the one hand they make millions by taxing cigarettes etc., on the other hand they claim to want to reduce smoking

    Dr. Hans-Peter Laqueur Cyprus
    I am a smoker and have been so for about 30 of my 51 years of life. I am aware of the health hazard this involves, but that is my own personal decision. I feel that governments are acting very hypocritically; on the one hand they make millions by taxing cigarettes etc., on the other hand they claim to want to reduce smoking. The argument of increased costs for public health systems due to smoking related diseases is not valid as well: statistics show that smokers have a shorter expectation of life and thus cost the system less, not more.
    Dr. Hans-Peter Laqueur Cyprus

    In Uganda, tobacco is a major source of revenue for the government. I therefore don't see our government coming vigorously to play it's part in the campaign against smoking. This is a time when the widening of the tax base and attaining a higher economic growth are a matter of urgency for Uganda.
    Chole Richard, Uganda

    I watched my lovely grandfather die of emphysema, which is a chronic lung disease, caused by smoking. He struggled for breath 24 hours a day for about 25 years and spat up phlegm. Also my own father was in intensive care for a fortnight after a brain haemorrhage probably caused by smoking - he is now paralysed down one side. I tried a few fags when I was on holiday away from my parents at the age of 12 but not for long enough to get addicted - so I am lucky and my 14 year old niece and my sister (a nurse) insists on smoking.
    Maureen, Belfast

    I can't help myself saying many thanks to all tobacco producers for all the enjoyable moments I have spent with their products

    Marek Taborsky, Prague
    Many people believe that tobacco industry has done more bad things than good but I strongly disagree with this point of view. Well, as far as I'm concerned and according to opinions of many smokers who claim that smoking has been bringing them a lot of pleasure, I can't help myself saying many thanks to all tobacco producers for all the enjoyable moments I have spent with their products.
    Marek Taborsky, Prague

    I personally do not smoke. However, almost every one of my friends, age of 18 to 26, smoke cigarettes. In fact, I respect their right to smoke and have never suggested them to quit smoking, even though it's scientifically proven and worldly known that cigarette smoking can cause various form of cancer.
    What I want to emphasise is that the smokers have right to smoke. But! We have the right to "not being polluted by passive smoke".
    Akira Tamura, Australia

    I think smokers should be made more aware of the effects on their health of smoking, just as drug users should be made aware of the impact of drug taking

    Stephanie Cooper, London
    As a non-smoker, I find nothing worse than sitting close to someone who reeks of smoke or who is smoking. I think smokers should be made more aware of the effects on their health of smoking, just as drug users should be made aware of the impact of drug taking, and people who are overweight should be made aware of the risk of heart disease etc.
    Stephanie Cooper, London

    If a smoker claims smoking is a personal choice, then a non-smoker can say that prohibiting smoking or discouraging smoking is his personal choice. It is important to note that smoking does not merely affect the smoker himself but also people subjected to the second-hand smoke. This is DEFINITELY a health risk.
    As for the "crackdown" and tough policies by the authorities against cigarettes, if they do it to discourage smoking, then I say good job, keep it up. Charging high taxes is a quick way of directly reducing people from smoking. Restrictions and shock tactics are fine by me too.
    James Andrew Singapore

    It is in no way a personal choice: other people have to repair the damage. If funds from tax are needed, then they will still be paid, from 'fag' duty or otherwise. Ban it.
    Andrew, Scotland

    Smoking can be a public nuisance to those who do not smoke. Aside from the awful stench which clings on to your clothes, and the plethora of conditions which smoking (actively and passively) is said to cause, I find it nauseating.
    Whilst I will avoid deliberately going near to a smoker or a smoking area, this is not always possible. Although many restaurants have non-smoking areas, since smoke disperses through the air I often find myself breathing it in nonetheless. Furthermore, as few bars, clubs and pubs (non-restaurant section) even have non-smoking sections it often leaves the non-smoker with no choice if they wish to spend their leisure time in such areas.
    M.L., Oxford, UK

    Your comments before we went ON AIR Smoking is definitely NOT something people are free to do. The vast majority of smokers start in their teens, due to pressure from friends and tobacco advertising. That is not a free choice. And, having smoked for a short while, they are unable to stop. That is certainly not a free choice.
    Misha Gale, Leiston, UK

    It's strange that other addictive substances are illegal, while tobacco is not

    Martin Clarke, UK
    It's strange that other addictive substances are illegal, while tobacco is not. The answer, quite simple it suits the government to continue to make money from peoples habit and eventual poor health and premature death. If people die off early through smoking related disease than fewer pensions to pay out. It works both ways for the government, no wonder they won't ban smoking!
    Martin Clarke, London UK

    Sorry, I just don't see the debate here... as a non-smoker, the only thing I have to ask about smoking is¿ What's the point?
    Steven Woods, UK

    Health insurance plans should charge smokers heavy fees

    Moshe, Israel
    A ban on smoking in private would be stupid, and impossible to enforce. However, I can see no reason why I should have to pay for self-inflicted injuries sustained by smokers. Health insurance plans should charge smokers heavy fees (or grant discounts to non smokers). People should have the freedom to smoke (as long as they do it far away from me) but they should pay the cost.
    Moshe, Israel

    I think smoking is good The more people who smoke and die from it the more space there is in the world for normal sensible people. Call it population control if you like.
    Chis, London, UK

    The tobacco companies or patients should pay the bill for all NHS treatment for smokers instead of the general non-smoking public.
    Robert Kardzis, Birmingham

    This is less an issue of 'free will' than some suggest. Nicotine is highly addictive, so that once one starts smoking for any reason it is extremely difficult to stop. This is the hidden danger of the substance and the reason why comparisons to wine, autos and other 'personal choices' don't work. Banning tobacco it its present addictive form is a certainty in this century. If a non-addictive replacement is offered, it will probably vie for popularity with anchovy flavoured chewing gum.
    Tom Neff, New York, NY, USA

    How would a ban be enforced?

    James Penlington, London, England
    How would a ban be enforced? If smokers continued to illegally smoke publicly the police couldn't do anything about it. They already get enough criticism for coming down hard on the motorist whilst serious crime levels rise.
    James Penlington, London, England

    I think that what would be more useful would be a ban on people who have taken up or carried on smoking over the last 20 years. These people have done so through personal choice whilst ignoring all the warnings. Legislate to stop people benefiting through stupidity or laziness.
    Jacki Muir, Phuket, Thailand

    I have two thoughts on this - as a non-smoker and an anti-smoker: I have spent some time recently working in California, and it is an absolute joy to be able to go to a restaurant, a bar or a shop, and know that the air will be free of tobacco smoke. My other thought is what I believe is the way to ban smoking altogether. You don't ban smoking, you ban "starting" smoking. You make all smokers register over the period of, say, a year, and then you make it illegal for anyone who isn't a registered smoker to buy tobacco. Once the initial registration period is passed, you stop anyone else from registering, and as time goes on, the number of smokers will fall as they die off. In 75 years time, there will be no more registered smokers, and you simply stop selling tobacco. No-one is forced to stop smoking, but the scourge will die out over time.
    Richard, Watford, UK

    We are individuals with minds of our own!

    Julia Rees, Reading, England
    I have smoked since I was 15 (14 years) and I know it is extremely bad for me, but I enjoy it. As other smokers will know, there are certain cigarettes you have every day that you really enjoy - the one after a meal, the one with a cup of coffee, the several while you're drinking and always the one last thing at night. As an individual I would like to make my own choices, as I do in other aspects of my life, like the work I do, the people I socialise with, etc. I am not about to let the Government (let's be honest, a total stranger!) dictate to me those things, and so I will not allow them to dictate whether I am a smoker or non-smoker. Leave our choices alone - we are individuals with minds of our own!
    Julia Rees, Reading, England

    If governments were serious about trying to get people to stop smoking, they would either make smoking illegal or else push the price up to something like £50 for a pack of 10. Ciggies bring in a lot of TAX revenue for governments so why would they want people to stop smoking?
    Rob Marrey, Bray, Ireland

    I'm quite happy for anyone to condemn themselves to a slow death via lung, throat, tongue or bowel cancer as long as they accept the responsibility for it. That means paying what it actually costs the NHS for their stupidity and not inflicting it on others. I went to a bar in San Francisco and it was so nice not to emerge from there with my hair and clothes not stinking of cigarette smoke. So smoke if you want just don't inflict it on others.
    Steve, London, UK

    As a doctor, I regard smoking as one of the most dangerous hobbies there is

    Dave Harvey, Swansea
    As a doctor, I regard smoking as one of the most dangerous "hobbies" there is, and the world would be a far better place without tobacco. Prohibition only creates problems, but what is needed is a clear policy of making smoking as socially unacceptable as possible. The EU suggestions on gruesome pictures are a step in the right direction, but need to be combined with a complete advertising/sponsorship ban, and replacement by adverts aimed specifically at children ridiculing smokers without in any way making them seem anti-establishment "heroes". It may be too late to save the current smoking fools, but we may be able to reduce the harm in subsequent generations.
    Dave Harvey, Swansea

    To Jennifer in London, it's estimated that in the UK for every £1 a smoker costs the NHS they pay £7 in tax. I don't smoke but it keeps my tax burden down! Let them kill themselves.
    James Roberts, London, UK

    I think we should ban work: the stress is very bad for our health.
    SP, UK

    Can we stop this selective whinging nonsense

    Tibor Saringer, Budapest, Hungary
    If smoking is banned on the ground that it affects public health, then alcohol too should be banned. Then, GM food. artificial additives. How about fat? Ban fat people, they're a burden on health care. And what about work? It causes stress, serial killer No. 1, and yet no one says we should all quit slaving away. Once and for all, can we stop this selective whinging nonsense?
    Tibor Saringer, Budapest, Hungary

    Yes, smoking causes health problems and second hand smoke affects non-smokers. But quite honestly, there are so many more polluting and toxic products in my environment, that I feel smoking is the least of them. One only needs to read the label of a typical processed food product, or step outside in a city and take a deep breath. Why are these things ignored, when they affect so many other people?
    Roxanne, USA

    Is smoking a personal choice or a public health issue? It is both. Go ahead and smoke all you want. Just don't do it in places where people who choose not to smoke, gather: Restaurants, theatres, bars and shops would be a good place to start. California's public smoking laws made it a great place for me to live as a non smoker.
    Amanda Bradley, Seattle, Washington

    Yes of course the government is guilty of hypocrisy in the manner in which they deal with cigarette smokers. Banning it would be useless and unenforcable, but banning advertising from all public places, including the media, billboards and at point of sale could be useful instead. High taxes on cigarettes and alcohol should be used to help those addicted to these dangerous drugs, not used by the government to prop up other services which should be funded by taxing the rich.

    Ultimately, however, both the cigarette and alcohol industries are very powerful pressure groups, whose influence should not be underestimated. It only takes a look across to the USA, where George Bush Jnr has given massive concessions to the tobacco industry in return for financial support during the recent presidential elections, to see that ultimately the government is likely to bow to pressure from an industry which will do anything to protect its massive profits.
    Gina, Dublin, Ireland

    I despise comments that smokers should not be given medical care. Look at all the other pollutants on this earth, irradiated areas in Russia, oil spills and factories spewing out poison gases each day. Come on guys lets look at the big issues.
    Veronica Williamson, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Cutting down excess food consumption will not hurt the tax system

    F. London, UK
    Your front page today reports a link between obesity and cancer. It was already known that obesity is a significant risk factor in many diseases, and actuaries have calculated that the shortened expectation of life in a significantly obese individual is equivalent to smoking 60 cigarettes a day.

    And yet, while there is unrestrained enthusiasm for attacking tobacco advertising, we live in a society dominated by advertising to encourage us to eat more food. No one has suggested discouraging children from gorging themselves on junk food and confectionery, by banning sales to them. No government health warnings about excess food consumption have even been suggested. Unlike tobacco, cutting down excess food consumption will not hurt the tax system. And, by discouraging the excesses of agribusiness, it might help to prevent the environmental damage that we have seen in recent months. Funny old world, isn't it?
    F. London, UK

    Hands up I admit it! I am a smoker! sorry I am, but a considerate one, I don't smoke at home or at work, I don't light a fag if people are too near in stations/bus etc. I was railroaded into smoking at 15 and 10 years on still puffing away. However I have paid a lot in tax, in 10 years I have probably handed over about £8,000 in tax on cigarettes, I think that pays for me so far on the NHS-if that is what the government spend it on!

    If you ban smoking you drive it underground and then comes crime, more police having to deal with yet another problem, and the government loose out on the tax money that they pocket from our disgusting habit! Now off you go and drink your camomile tea and stay in doors with your pure oxygen masks on and your bubble wrap around you!
    Nick, London

    Smoking does affect the whole of society

    Joan Fiver, USA
    Smoking does affect the whole of society. The costs of treating tobacco related illnesses (including second-hand smoking) are enormous for both taxpayers and those who pay for health insurance. However, why only attack tobacco. Alcohol also is a major problem both economically and socially. Taxing these products at a much higher rate is the best solution to cover the economic costs.
    Joan Fiver, USA

    Smoking in public places like restaurants should be banned. Part of the tax from tobacco should go to local authorities who have to clean up the mess left by smokers. I don't smoke and I resent having the air I breathe being poisoned by those around me. Sit near a smoker and my chest get irritated and my clothes stink. No thank you.
    Joanne Mead, Herts

    It's unhealthy
    It's smelly
    It's expensive

    Yet banning smoking would be an act of folly. For goodness sake learn the lessons of the American alcohol prohibition.
    Rodger Edwards (non smoker), Manchester, UK

    After living in California for almost 20 years now, (originally from North Wales), I can only say going out to a bar, restaurant etc here is so much better than back in the UK knowing I won't have to breath in someone else's smoke. People who smoke don't realise how much of a healthy lifestyle they are missing.
    Robert Brady, Westlake, California, USA

    Banning cigs, what a great idea! Prohibition of drugs has worked so well that it was only a matter of time before some genius thought of this one. Personally I hate cigarettes, but this is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard of.
    Dave, USA

    Majority benefit from the smoking minority

    Nigel Harper, UK
    Time and again I keep hearing about how much smokers cost the system. This is simply not true. The last official study to be undertaken was in 1997 by the Health Education Authority in collaboration with the University of York. The study estimated that the entire costs to the NHS, including passive smoking, amounted to between 1.4 billion and 1.7 billion Pounds. That same financial year, 1997-1998, saw combined tobacco retail tax revenues of 8.5 billion Pounds, note - not including corporate taxes. The truth is the vast majority benefit from the smoking minority and would have to pay significantly higher taxes to make up the shortfall should all the smokers suddenly down their fags.
    Nigel Harper, London, UK

    I don't mind what anyone does to himself or herself, however, why should they pollute my lungs and try to kill me with acrid pollutants and carcinogens when they stand near to me on a railway platform or in the street. Why should they try to kill me, my wife and my children, simply because of their stupid addiction? - Smokers are a large threat to non-smokers, as we know that passive smoking is also more dangerous. Furthermore, why should I pay taxes to treat their smoking related illnesses when they get to old age? I say let them smoke, but only in private where they can kill themselves together.
    Andrew Henderson, London, UK

    I don't think it has much to do with 'freedom of choice'. Many smokers are railroaded into it in their teenage years by peer pressure. Quickly hooked there is no more choice. Quitting smoking and breaking the addiction is just too hard for some people. You are more likely to be pressured into smoking if you are weak and will therefore be less well equipped to quit when realisation that it is killing you hits.
    Ellen, London, UK

    How lost revenue in the form of taxes on cigarettes would be replaced?

    Ian Leonard, UK
    If any politicians were reading this, it would be interesting to know how lost revenue in the form of taxes on cigarettes would be replaced. Who would pay? I am assuming that everyone would have to bare the burden of a heavy increase in personal taxation to account for the lost revenue. I smoke I pay more in tax than a non-smoker, yet I'm penalised for it. I am annoyed that I should be treated like a second-class citizen because I smoke the occasional cigarette. If the whole of the people who smoke cigarettes in the UK stopped smoking tomorrow, the Government would be in serious trouble.
    Ian Leonard, Bracknell, UK

    The issue is not about smokers - it is about the tobacco industry marketing a lethal product. Imagine it, a company invented a new product that kills at least 1 in three users, is addictive and is overwhelmingly first used when you are a child. Would we allow it? With bans on the so called "right" to market tobacco all we are doing is trying to correct an historical wrong.
    Mark Flannagan, London, UK

    Tobacco is a major export cash crop in developing countries; it cannot be banned.

    Name Here
    Tobacco is a major export cash crop in developing countries such that it cannot be banned. The government realizes a lot of revenue through tax from this business and the industry offers employment to a lot of people. I was a good cigarette smoker for the past four years. I personally decided to quit the habit because I knew it was harmful not only to my health but also to other people's health. In my example, smoking is a personal choice and should be left to the smoker himself or herself to take a personal decision to stop.
    Lucas Ogutu Oganje, Dar es Salaam, Tansania

    Just as the government wants to fill its coffers, manufacturers want to make money. So there has to be a way to circumvent the government regulations by targeting the uninformed Third World countries. What a pity to those innocent lives lost for the wealthy to live longer in the developed world!
    Sigarabora, Canada

    Smoke in a public place? £1000 fine.

    Paul., UK
    You smokers have (literally) got away with murder for long enough. It's time for the rest of us to browbeat you into place. We have the right not to inhale your fumes and we're sick of hearing you lot bleating about your rights being 'infringed.' Make no mistake smokers. This is our health you're toying with. We know you don't care but believe me, we do and it's just not on. Legislators - legislate and legislate hard. Smoke in a public place? £1000 fine.
    Paul C, Scotland

    Let smokers continue the filthy habit if they wish, but tax them heavily, restrict where they can smoke, and make them pay all their own medical bills.
    John Atkins, Bridgwater, England

    I don't know what all the fuss is about. I've been smoking 200 unfiltered cigarettes a day since I was ten years old. I also drink 15 pints of cider and half a bottle of scotch daily. I love eating fried bread, greasy eggs and bacon whilst changing TV channels with the remote control. You won't believe it but for a ninety year old I am still fit as a fiddle.
    Michael Woods, London England

    Tobacco available on prescription only

    Adrian UK
    Banning tobacco, no matter how desirable, would be very difficult, and likely to be impossible to enforce. However, other measures such as making tobacco available on prescription only, replacing the packaging with a plain white box, banning tobacco advertising, more resources for those that want to stop, a ban on smoking in public places could be introduced. It depends how much; at the end of the day national governments and the EU are addicted to tobacco. Who is in control - at the moment it looks like it's the tobacco industry.
    Adrian JR Evans, UK

    Keep them smoking. If they all give up, we will have to take up the loss to the tax system.
    Neil, Dorking, England

    Lets be realistic - Governments across the world take billions of pounds each year in tax from tobacco related products - this is what keeps the country going - without this additional revenue think how bad our public services would be - they're bad enough now!
    K Higgs, Bedfordshire,UK

    Do we really want to live in a sterile world?

    Steffen, Grenland
    We claim to live in the free part of the world, and we respect human rights and so on. But despise that everyday we get more and more regulated in our life. If people want to smoke, it should be a choice of their own, everybody knows it's not healthy, even children knows that. How can it also be that the most fanatic anti-smokers for the most part is former smokers? What will be the next things that the politicians will take away from us? Wine? Cars, they pollute as well, close factories due to pollutions, kill animals because they pollute the nature. Do we really want to live in a sterile world?
    Steffen Rasmussen, Pituffik, Greenland

    Every day I pray to God to help me stop this evil. Cigarettes, especially those destined for the Third world, I believe have more nicotine and tar to ensure that it's population doesn't take the current trend in the West where people are giving up smoking in a large scale. Finally it's a shame what man can do to another in the name of profits.
    Bill Amira, kenya/nairobi

    Along with personal choice comes a responsibility towards society. Regulation is essential to ensure social responsibility. The other issue is about people responsible for this predicament, the tobacco companies. These are the ones who thrive on the addictions of people and exploitation of the situation. It starts with glamorising smoking with their promotions and capitalising on ensuing addictions. It is time that they pay back to society for all the damage they have done!!
    Yul, India

    If people want to die ugly deaths, shouldn't they be allowed to?

    Jon, USA
    If these scare tactics were restricted to cigarette packets, at which I never look, that would be fine. But something tells me that the Euro-nannies will soon find an excuse for inflicting this kind of thing on every consumer, in the name of saving the small number of people who abuse tobacco. And by the way, why do we want to save people from smoking themselves to death, anyway. I don't smoke, but I get a bit sick of smoking being used as an excuse for yet more power-tripping. If people want to die ugly deaths, shouldn't they be allowed to?
    Jon livesey, USA

    It is not the job of the government or the world to protect you from yourself. I believe that the job of educating the public on the affects of smoking have been done and it should be up to the individual to decide for themselves. The course and efforts that have been used on Tobacco indicates a lack of priority and focus on behalf of the government. You cannot force people to quit, and to attempt to do so would only create a black market for tobacco and give the government another reason to throw someone in jail with real criminals creating a criminal not a reformed person, just as we have done with marijuana, making the overall cost of forcing people to quit a price not worth paying. Are we an educated and democratic society or are these just politically correct words with no meaning? Is Democracy so similar to Communism?
    Lawrence A. Brown III, Long Beach USA

    The question should really be, do we want to live in a free society where, we the citizens, have ultimate authority on how we live our lives? Everyone knows the dangers of smoking. If an individual chooses to smoke because he/she enjoys it, so be it, it's no one else's business. As far as the increased health costs of smoking, we all engage in one risky behaviour or another that over the long run raise health costs. Does this mean all risky behaviours should be banned? No, it's comes with the territory of living in a "free" society. If tobacco is banned, why not ban fatty foods since they lead to heart disease? This may be nextay be next on the list anyway.
    Jeff, San Diego, USA

    Put the same effort into stopping alcohol abuse

    Mandy, UK
    How I wish the powers that be and do gooders would put the same effort into stopping alcohol abuse. I really think having a cigarette is a matter of personal choice. However, someone who is drunk is a threat to many.
    Mandy, UK

    Cigarettes will never be banned for one simple reason. The Government makes too much money from taxes.
    Ron, Las Vegas USA

    It would increase smuggling and crime

    Roman, Slovakia
    Although, I am a vehement anti-smoker, I still think that banning smoking at this time would be counter-productive. Perhaps we could ban smoking in 2050 if smokers make up a much smaller proportion of the population. In the end it would have the same effect as the prohibition in the USA during the 1920s and would merely lead to a vast increase in smuggling and crime. Furthermore, it is better to concentrate on the demand-side of the equation and educate young people not to smoke. Pictures of destroyed lungs and rotten teeth on the ciggarete packs may indeed help make smoking seem less "cool" to teenagers, which seems to be the reason they take up smoking in the first place.
    Roman Lajciak, Bratislava, Slovakia

    Like drinking alcoholic beverages, eating food full of cholesterol, driving automobiles, and so many other things we either need to do, or enjoy, smoking is indeed hazardous to our health. I have smoked for forty years, I enjoy it, and I will do it as long as I can afford to. What concerns me far more than any vice or "hazardous" personal activity, as it should any free person, is a government that dictates to me what I may and may not do in my personal life. Even as the government of the USA ignores skyrocketing fuel and electricity costs, poor quality medical care, a pitiful and declining educational system that will bankrupt the society, that same government is trying to tell me that "illegal" drugs and tobacco are to blame for almost all of our problems.
    Jacob G. Stansbury, Jr., New Iberia, Louisiana, USA

    Smokers have the right and freedom to smoke. If you want to ban it, then ban cars, power stations, alchohol, factories, fast food chains, and any other pollutant or health damaging matter. I think we are old enough to make our own decisions. It is my right to smoke just like it is your right to breathe fresh air, so stop badgering me.
    Sam, Egypt/UK

    Banning... it would only increase problems

    John Yates, Ekenas Finland
    Tobacco is a dangerous drug, but banning it would only increase problems and hand over another source of income to organised crime. Prohibition can never work and it is better to regulate dangerous drugs like tobacco within the framework of law rather than turning them loose on the black market.
    John Yates, Ekenas Finland

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    See also:

    15 May 01 | Health
    Europe strikes at smoking
    04 May 01 | Health
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    26 Apr 01 | Americas
    US may abandon tobacco lawsuit
    06 Feb 01 | South Asia
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