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Lenze Meinsma

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 14 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1519
  1. Tony Sheldon

    Dutch antismoking doctor whose message was finally heard

    Lenze Meinsma was laughed at when he appeared on Dutch television in the 1960s with the then uncompromising message “Smoking damages your health . . . it can even kill!” A nation in which 90% of men smoked dismissed Dr Meinsma, then director of the Dutch Cancer Society, as a “fanatic.”

    He was certainly single minded, campaigning tirelessly through speaking engagements and school visits, writing angry letters to ministers and the press. Although he remained for years a voice in the wilderness, his efforts made him a national icon. He is remembered in his regional paper, the Leeuwarder Courant, on his death aged 85 as simply “the antismoking doctor.”

    Steadfast individual

    Meinsma was born in 1923 in Makkum, Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands, a region with a reputation, similar to the United Kingdom’s Yorkshire, for producing steadfast individuals. The son of a decorative painter in the local earthenware pottery factory, Meinsma instead studied medicine in the years after the second world war, first in Groningen and finally at …

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