THANK YOU FOR NOT SMOK­ING

Dr Ju­dith Mackay can talk about tobacco con­trol for hours on end with­out ex­haus­tion. She bru­tally tears through the ac­tions of Big Tobacco al­beit with char­ac­ter­is­tic Bri­tish po­lite­ness; takes down ev­ery pro-smok­ing ar­gu­ment in a soft yet firm man­ner that

Qatar Today - - CONTENTS - By Ayswarya Murthy

Dr Ju­dith Mackay can talk about tobacco con­trol for hours on end with­out ex­haus­tion. She bru­tally tears through the ac­tions of Big Tobacco al­beit with char­ac­ter­is­tic Bri­tish po­lite­ness; takes down ev­ery pro-smok­ing ar­gu­ment in a soft yet firm man­ner that brooks no dis­sent.

For those born af­ter the 80s, it's dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend what Dr Ju­dith Mackay (iden­ti­fied by the tobacco in­dus­try as “one of the three most danger­ous peo­ple in the world”) and her ilk have done to de­nor­malise smok­ing when com­pared to its Mad Men-glory days. For a gen­er­a­tion that was taught the dan­gers of tobacco in tan­dem with the benefits of brush­ing your teeth twice a day, it is al­most jar­ring to see ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive Don Draper light up dur­ing meet­ings, in movie the­atres, on public trans­port...on a plane!!! You half ex­pect some­one to fake-cough in an ac­cusatory fash­ion, point to a NoSmok­ing sign and ask him to stub it out. But that was 40 years ago. To­day, Don Draper would be rel­e­gated to des­o­late smok­ing zones and his most prof­itable client, Lucky Strike cig­a­rettes, would be close to worth­less be­cause of the near-blan­ket ban on ad­ver­tis­ing tobacco prod­ucts.

For Dr Mackay too, it's a vastly dif­fer­ent world. In the sev­eral years she prac­ticed medicine in Hong Kong, it had be­come ob­vi­ous to her that her wards were “ab­so­lutely full of smok­ers” and cu­ra­tive medicine was only go­ing to be of limited help. When she started work­ing full-time on tobacco con­trol in 1984, she was a lone David in Asia against the Go­liath of Big Tobacco, who thought they could “ride into the con­ti­nent like the Marl­boro cow­boy and it would be theirs for the tak­ing”. For 25 years she worked pro bono (as the Founder and Direc­tor of the Asian Con­sul­tancy on Tobacco Con­trol) with the gov­ern­ments and NGOs in Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia, Laos, China, Mag­no­lia and North Korea as they crafted their early-stage tobacco con­trol poli­cies. “And I had a ter­ri­ble time of it,” she re­calls. “The tobacco com­pa­nies threat­ened to take me to court, em­barked on a cam­paign of char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion, and the death threats I re­ceived from tobacco sup­port groups prompted the Hong Kong

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