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1956: Minister rejects anti-smoking lobby
The Health Minister, RH Turton, has rejected calls for a government campaign against smoking, saying no ill-effects have actually been proven.

The minister stated in the House of Commons that: "Two cancer-causing agents have been identified in tobacco smoke but whether they have a direct role in producing lung cancer and if so what, has not been proved."

Tobacco is a great boon to many millions of people in this country and throughout the world
Leading British tobacco firms
He did, however, add that evidence which was being studied by the Medical Research Council showed that "mortality from cancer from the lung is 20 times greater amongst heavy smokers than amongst non-smokers".

His statement follows in the wake of a report by Dr Ernest Wynder in February showing that cigarette smoking is the "single most important external factor" associated with lung cancer.

Leading British tobacco firms - including British-American and Imperial Tobacco - issued a statement which said: "The evidence of the possible relationship of lung cancer and smoking is conflicting and very incomplete; much more research is necessary before firm conclusions can be drawn."

It said the industry supported research into possible health risks associated with its product and had donated 250,000 to the Medical Research Council to that effect.

But the link between disease and smoking was "based mainly on certain statistical inquiries" which could not on their own be used as conclusive evidence.

The statement went on to praise the benefits of tobacco.

"Tobacco is a great boon to many millions of people in this country and throughout the world; the benefits, psychological and physiological, it may confer are not yet fully understood and might well be the subject of investigation."

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Man smoking a cigarette
Health minister RH Turton says there is no proof that smoking causes cancer

In Context
The tobacco industry in the UK and the USA continued to deny the link between cancer and smoking for decades.

In June 1957 the UK Government accepted the "causal relationship" between tobacco and cancer. Then in March 1962 the Royal College of Physicians issued a landmark report linking cigarettes with fatal disease and tobacco - the first of four such publications all contradicted by the tobacco industry.

In 1965 health warnings appeared for the first time on cigarette packets in the USA.

Cigarette manufacturers in the UK followed suit in 1971 after an experiment on beagles conducted by Oscar Auerbach proved irrevocably the connection between cancer and tobacco smoke.

In 1997, the tobacco industry agreed to pay out $368.5bn over 25 years for the costs of smoking-related disease in 40 US states that had sued.

As well as cancer, smoking also causes heart disease, asthma and premature ageing. Pregnant women who smoke put their unborn children at risk of low birth weight.

According to the Department of Health, more than 120,000 deaths were caused by smoking in the UK in 1995 - that is one in five of all deaths.

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