Healthy smoking debunked

The Australian media have caught on to the story about the bizarre “healthy smoking” article in The Jakarta Post.

The ABC’s website says the author, Murray Clapham, wrote the article just as the government is considering legislation to curb tobacco abuse:

Murray Clapham’s piece was published just as the Indonesian Government is considering introducing anti-smoking legislation.

Mr Clapham is an Australian businessman working across Asia, who also sits on the fundraising board of the Victor Chang Foundation.

He said he set up the foundation with the Australian surgeon and pioneer of the heart transplant to bring Asian doctors to train in Australia.

Mr Clapham says his support for smoking has little to do with employment or revenue, but that is a bonus.

“If you read the article, I say in there that there may well be some other causes, in relation to some of the chronic diseases which are impacting on our health, that we don’t attribute to smoke,” he said.

“But I’m also saying that the smokes that we smoke today are very, very bad for us.”

The Australian Government’s Department of Health lists smoking as a risk factor in Australia’s three killer diseases – strokes, heart disease and lung cancer – and says it is responsible for 20 per cent of all cancer deaths.

The chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, Anne Jones, says the article is bizarre.

“There is no substance, no accuracy, no evidence that is correct in the claims of Mr Clapham,” she said.

“It’s a bizarre claim by somebody using the Victor Chang name, because he is a director of a fundraising foundation associated with Victor Chang.

“And the timing is very, very bad because Indonesia is losing millions of people a year from smoking.

“The government has been very slow to act and they’re finally about to consider some legislation that could decrease the loss of life. And then this article comes out in a prominent Indonesian newspaper.”

The Sydney Morning Herald also picked up the story today, quoting a spokesman for Dr Alan Farnsworth, the chairman of the Victor Chang Foundation’s board, as saying that “though Mr Clapham was on the board he did not speak for it, was not a clinician and that his views were ‘absolutely, unequivocally’ not shared by the board”.

It also quoted a health expert describing the article as “rubbish”:

The chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, Anne Jones, described the article and the use of Victor Chang’s name as ”worse than mischievous”.

”This is just rubbish, there is no such thing as a safe cigarette, even the tobacco companies admit that.”

She said millions of people had died from smoking in Indonesia and the government, which has its own links to tobacco growing, has so far been loath to tackle the industry.

The story was also reported on the Ninemsn news website, but you heard it here first.

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