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28 September 2009

‘Smoking kills’, doctors warned in 1606

A doctor's letter written more than 400 years ago has revealed medics then were concerned about the dangers of young people smoking.

The letter, by Dr Eleazar Duncon, was unearthed by library staff at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) as they prepared for an exhibition.

And Professor Sir Neil Douglas, the president of the RCPE, said it gave a "fascinating insight into historical concerns" about smoking and young people.

On Thursday MSPs at Holyrood will consider the general principles of Scottish Government proposals aimed at curbing the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to youngsters.

But Dr Duncon's letter, which was published by his employer in 1606, reveals medics were concerned about the issue four centuries ago.

The letter concluded that tobacco "is so hurtful and dangerous to youth that it might have the pernicious nation expressed in the name, and that it were as well known by the name of Youths-bane as by the name of tobacco.”

The RCPE president commented on the letter and said: "This letter from our library collection provides a fascinating insight into historical medical concerns about the addictive nature of smoking and young people, and shows that this issue has been of concern for over four centuries."

He went on: "The Scottish Parliament has already taken a political lead, and demonstrated its commitment to tackling0 the harm caused by tobacco, by introducing smoke-free legislation for public places.

"However, it would be easy for politicians to think that the problems associated with tobacco have been dealt with and to lose sight of the fact that the proposed Bill includes critically important measures aimed at reducing smoking in young people.

"These measures principally involve ending point of sale advertising and banning vending machines, both of which encourage and influence young people to smoke.

"We therefore urge MSPs from all parties to support this important Bill and to take this historic opportunity to reduce the harm caused by smoking in the young."

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