Monday 21 October 2019

Roslyn Dee: 'I'm a widow because of tobacco - it's time to get tough with evil industry'

 

'I'm not alone in thinking that the tobacco industry is evil. In fact, I'm in very good company, for Professor John Crown, one of our most eminent and internationally respected oncologists, has tagged the industry as precisely that in the past. Evil' (stock photo)
'I'm not alone in thinking that the tobacco industry is evil. In fact, I'm in very good company, for Professor John Crown, one of our most eminent and internationally respected oncologists, has tagged the industry as precisely that in the past. Evil' (stock photo)

Roslyn Dee

Remember "sweetie cigarettes" - those boxes of little white sugary sticks with the reddened tips that were once displayed beside the gobstoppers and the bubble gum in your local confectionery shop?

Banned here just over a decade ago, it's actually hard to believe that they lasted that long - that well into the first decade of the 21st century and knowing all that we had by then learned about the catastrophic damage caused by cigarettes, we were still selling those "gateway" sweets to youngsters. And yes, international research concluded back then that the children who most indulged in the sugar-stick version were the ones most likely to progress to the real thing.

I'm not alone in thinking that the tobacco industry is evil. In fact, I'm in very good company, for Professor John Crown, one of our most eminent and internationally respected oncologists, has tagged the industry as precisely that in the past. Evil.

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What else, indeed, would you call an industry that is prepared to kill millions of people in its own greed-grasping pursuit of billions of dollars?

As of this week's Budget, with that 50 cent in excise added to a packet, 20 cigarettes now cost €13.50. So what?

Those who were forking out €13 last Monday will, of course, moan and groan about the increase - and then hand it over. It's only 50 cent. It's token gesture stuff.

There's nothing token, however, about the following statistics: that last year, across the globe, almost two million people died from lung cancer; that 90pc of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer are smokers; that half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease; that in Ireland alone, some 2,500 people receive a devastating lung cancer diagnosis every year.

I know. In May 2014, my husband Gerry was one of them. By the end of June the following year, he was gone. Just 13 months from diagnosis to death. He was 62.

"Smoking", an elderly friend told me some years ago, "was so glamorous when we were young. It was the stuff of Hollywood movies. Just look at some of those old films - the elegance of Lauren Bacall with a cigarette dangling from her fingers. If only we'd known then what we know now."

And that's the point. We do know now. We know exactly the depth of the damage and the devastation that tobacco causes in so many lives.

And believe you me, there's nothing glamorous about lung cancer. The living with it. Or the dying from it. In the end, you are struggling for every breath.

Was my husband a smoker? Yes, he was. Eighteen years before his death, Gerry gave up cigarettes entirely, but replaced them with small cigars. He loved smoking - but countless times he tried to stop.

Why? Because he knew exactly where it was likely to lead.

So when he finally quit three years before he died, he was delighted with himself. As was I.

But it was too late.

Tobacco had done its worst - and there was no way back.

I am a widow because of tobacco. That's the blunt truth of the matter. And I wouldn't wish the grief and the devastation that I have experienced these past four years on my worst enemy. Not even on the CEO of Philip Morris International.

It's only right to acknowledge here that we have not been idle in this country in the war against tobacco. But it isn't enough. Not nearly enough.

Fifty cent on cigarettes? What's wrong with a fiver, or even a tenner? It's time to get real about this.

And time to extinguish Big Tobacco - those money-grabbing widowmakers - before they snuff out any more lives.

Irish Independent

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