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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Smoking ban a long time coming
By Andrew Dougal
Chief executive, Chest, Heart & Stroke Association

For me, the introduction of smoke-free workplaces in Northern Ireland - from 30 April - is the culmination of many years of hard work and persuasion.

But I also have more personal reasons for wanting to see tobacco fumes removed from our public spaces.

Cigarette stub
Smoking will be banned in public places from 30 April

My father was a heavy smoker and died in February 1985, having been diagnosed a month earlier with the lung disease emphysema.

His cigarette of choice was the non-filtered variety, often Capstan Full Strength.

He, of course, began smoking long before the physical damage caused by the habit had been clinically proven.

It's worth noting that an actor named Ronald Reagan appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1946, announcing that he was sending all his friends Chesterfield cigarettes for Christmas.

But in a sense, my father's suffering as a result of smoking was mercifully brief.

My uncle was not so lucky. He was my father's older brother, and he spent most of the last 10 years of his life in hospital, having suffered from emphysema for many years before that.

To anyone who has not experienced the illness, perhaps I should explain that sufferers often talk of having a sensation of drowning.

Smoker
In Northern Ireland tobacco kills 2,700 people each year

While the condition can be managed better now, than when my uncle was alive, it is still totally incurable.

Two of my father's cousins also died of emphysema. I myself smoked from the age of 12 until I was 24. But I was one of the lucky ones who managed to stop.

For those who did not stop, the statistics are grim.

In Northern Ireland, tobacco kills 2,700 people each and every year.

In fact, smoking has caused the premature deaths of 67,000 people in Northern Ireland in the last 25 years.

The biggest source of regret for me, personally and professionally, is that 30 April 2007 has been so long in coming.




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