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Views & Reviews Past Caring

Royal insights on smoking

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 11 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1408
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

    Monarchs and their heirs are not always noted for their rational medical advice. But James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England in 1603, certainly earnt his nickname as “the wisest fool in Christendom” for his visionary insights into smoking.

    Published anonymously in 1604 but immediately credited to the king, A Counterblaste to Tobacco flew in the face of prevailing medical opinion by outlining some of the chief health risks of smoking more than three centuries before scientists made the connection. Possibly the first official antismoking campaign, the royal pamphlet highlighted cost and passive smoking as two …

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