Intended for healthcare professionals


Smoking and women: beauty before age?

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 20 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:818
  1. Simon Chapman, editor of “Tobacco Control,” Department of Public Health and Community Medicine.
  1. University of Sydney, Australia

    In 1986 I worked on a World Health Organisation assignment in Papua New Guinea. My task was to interview health workers about local prospects for tobacco control. In Goroka, in the eastern highlands, a local doctor told me: “The problem here will be that if you try to tell local people that smoking will make them sick, they will want you to show them which cigarette in the pack is the bad one they should discard. They won't understand the idea of chronic use being the problem.”

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    Over the years I've come to see that the challenges facing health educators in allegedly more sophisticated nations are little different. Smoking affects organ systems like lungs and blood vessels, which we can't see in the mirror and which typically take years to “bagarap” (as they would put it in Pidgin). With young people feeling invincible about their health, the reality of smoking affecting hidden viscera and shaving several years off the end of life has always been …

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