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1957: Smoking 'causes lung cancer'

The link between smoking and lung cancer is one of 'direct cause and effect', a special report by the Medical Research Council has found.

The report, published today, studied the dramatic increase in deaths from lung cancer over the past 25 years and concluded the main cause was smoking.

But tobacco firms have rejected the findings saying they are merely a 'matter of opinion'.

The government has indicated that an educational campaign to raise awareness on the dangers of smoking will be launched via local health authorities.

Shares unaffected

The report states that in 1945 the mortality rate from lung cancer was 188 deaths in every million. Ten years later the figure had almost doubled to 388 in every million.

The report, which looked at evidence from 21 investigations in six countries, found cigarette smoking to be the predominant cause for this rise.

Mr Vaughan-Morgan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health said: "The government feels that it is right to ensure that this latest authoritative opinion is brought effectively to public notice, so that everyone may know the risks involved."

But he made it clear that people, armed with the facts, would be able to make up their own minds and smoking would not be banned.

The prohibition of smoking in theatres, cinemas and public transport is not on the agenda, he added.

It is estimated that between 600m and 620m in revenue is generated by the sale of cigarettes.

The Conservatives have questioned what alternative taxes the government would introduce to cover that figure should cigarette smoking now be eliminated.

Members of the general public, asked by the BBC for their reaction to the findings, appeared unphased.

One smoker said that, although he was not considering giving up smoking himself, he thought the younger generation would be well advised not to start.

Another man said he was "not frightened at all" by the findings and may even consider increasing the number of cigarettes he smokes each day.

These views were reflected on the stock market where shares in leading tobacco companies remained largely unaffected by the news.

In Context
Since the 1957 report suggested a link between smoking and lung cancer, the connection has been firmly established.

Lung cancer now kills 20,000 people every year and health experts predict that life-time smokers have a 50% chance of dying of a smoking-related illness in middle-age.

It is also been established that tobacco smoking causes 25 different diseases including heart disease and strokes.

By 2020, the World Health Organisation expects the worldwide death toll to reach 10 million, causing 17.7% of all deaths in developed countries.

There are believed to be 1.1 billion smokers in the world, 800 million of them in developing countries.


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