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
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