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Smoking Brits hooked by the lip

Peter HinchliffeRetired international journalist Peter Hinchliffe, founder/editor of the UK's fascinating daily webzine Open Writing, has become one of OhmyNews's thousands of citizen reporters. "I've got another piece in OhmyNews this afternoon," he told me the other day. "I feel as I did when I was 19, getting my first reports printed in the weekly Batley News. I see stories on every hand. All I need is the time to write 'em." One of his recent stories impressed us so much that we asked him if we could republish it in this e-book. He agreed, so here it is.

By Peter Hinchliffe

TV anti-smoking advertA vivid series of TV anti-smoking adverts is disturbing the cozy supper-time snacks of millions of Brits.

Cheese-and-pickle sandwiches lose their flavor as you watch a young man, hooked in the lip, being hauled in like a helpless fish.

The man is dragged away from his desk, out into a gloomy winter-time back street, where he shivers as he lights up a cigarette. Smoking is banned in many shops and offices in Britain. Those "hooked" on cigarettes are compelled to loiter outdoors in the street for a smoke.

The ads, which feature women as well as men with hooks in their lips, are the principle weapons in a Get Unhooked campaign run by Britain's National Health Service.

Smoking tobacco in public places -- pubs, clubs, restaurants, etc -- has been banned in Scotland since March, 2006.

A similar ban comes into effect in Wales on April 2 this year, in Northern Ireland on April 30 and in England on July 1.

Despite decades of anti-smoking campaigns which have cost millions of pounds, one in four adult Brits -- 13 million -- still smoke cigarettes.

And this in a land where cigarette packets bear the unequivocal warning: SMOKING KILLS.

Cancer Research U.K. reports that 6 million British folk have died during the past 50 years as the direct result of cigarette smoking.

In that same period smoking has killed 100 million worldwide.

In British men 96 percent of all lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoke. Passive smoking, inhaling other folks' smoky exhalations, increases the chance of getting lung cancer by 25 percent, hence the ban on smoking in public places.

Britain's smoking men light up on average 15 cigarettes a day -- women 13 cigarettes a day.

Smoking cigarettes cuts an average of 10 years off a person's life according to a landmark study, reported in the British Medical Journal.

The 50-year study involved 34,439 men. All of those involved were born between 1900 and 1930 and all worked as doctors.

They were each asked about their smoking habits at the start of the study in 1951.

Researchers then contacted them periodically over the next 50 years to see if those habits had changed.

They found that those who have never smoked lived on average 10 years longer than those who smoked for most of their lives.

Smokers were at least twice as likely to die before the age of 70 as non-smokers.

Half of all persistent smokers are killed by their habit.

Will the current hard-to-stomach advertising campaign which, with a persuasive believability, shows men and women hooked by the lip and dragged to a rendezvous with a cigarette, have the required effect in persuading smokers to quit the habit?

Alarmingly many smokers have an in-built resistance to anti-smoking messages. Although many observe the present no-smoking signs, some seem to take pleasure in flouting them.

Yesterday I was eating a sandwich in a department store restaurant at Meadowhall, one of Britain's biggest shopping malls.

Notices appealing to customers not to smoke were prominently displayed.

After finishing their meal a couple on a nearby table promptly lit up cigarettes from the same lighter. Then they blew smoke over their young children, a boy and a girl.

Maybe something even stronger than pictures of adults hooked by the lip is required to end a long-lasting addiction to nicotine.

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Story first posted February 2007

Copyright 2007

Peter Hinchliffe

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