Don't downplay dangers of smoking

SINGAPORE - Commenting on the Health Ministry's proposal to prevent shops from displaying cigarette packs, the Punchlines cartoon on Monday carried a claim that alcohol "causes far worse problems" than cigarettes, and referenced a news article on a traffic accident related to alcohol intoxication.

While any such accidents are sad events, the fact is that in Singapore, they occur relatively infrequently.

According to police data, in a typical month, there are one or two alcohol-related traffic deaths - their rarity is part of what makes them newsworthy.

In comparison, according to the Health Promotion Board, there are more than 200 tobacco-related deaths in Singapore every month.

Indeed, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has calculated that "more people in Australia and New Zealand die from cigarettes than from alcohol, illicit drugs, road accidents, suicides, homicides, drowning, shark attacks, falls and electrocution - combined".

Therefore, public awareness of the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke should be promoted, not downplayed.

Alan J. Berrick (Professor)

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