Monday, 31 January 2011

Unintended consequences

The hazards of smoking to health have now been recognised for over 50 years and I am amazed that the practice is still going strong. The prevalence of smoking seems to have levelled off at a little over 20% in the UK and various measures such as the smoking ban in public places, and high taxation seem to have little deterrent effect on this last hard core.

The tobacco companies have long been in denial about these health hazards but initially they thought that cigarettes could be made safer by the use of filter tips, invented in the early fifties.

Here is a typical example of an ad of the day assuring consumers that their “micronite” filter afforded a degree of protection against the hazards of smoking.

Kent cigarettes used this type of filter tip for about five years, on a total of 13 billion cigarettes. Unfortunately the micronite filter was made, among other things, of 30% crocidolite, also known as blue asbestos. If we want to further reduce the number of smokers in the population, perhaps we should reintroduce these.

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