For ex-smokers like me who abhor tobacco and smoking, the revised tobacco directive launched by EU Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Tonio Borg was a step in the right direction and a good start for the new Maltese EU Commissioner. The tobacco directive tightens rules and encourages smokers to quit.

Rarely a week goes by that we do not learn something new about this deadly addiction. Some time ago we read that smoking is the major contributor to 270,000 yearly cancers in Europe.

For some types of cancer, such as lung and larynx, over 80 per cent were caused by smoking, which is also a major contributor to colon and bladder cancer.

One cannot but support the Government in its efforts to curb smoking, but more should be done as regards public places. In some bars and clubs one can see people smoking with no respect for the non-smokers present and for the law. There should be more enforcement in such places.

From time to time, leading surgeons – who every day witness people suffering and dying through smoke-related diseases – explain the enormous harm smoking causes both to the smoker and to the passive smoker. Smoking in public used to be fashionable once.

Humphrey Bogart developed smoking on screen as an art. We used to give way to smokers in cinemas and offices and on buses; no one dared tell a bully to put out his cigar in a crowded bus.

Today, the civilised world is recognising the terrible harm smoking is doing; and that is why more countries are banning smoking in public places.

In Malta, a person a day dies of tobacco-related causes. Charmaine Gauci, director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate, said that nowadays, most people are aware that smoking is harmful but many do not actually perceive the full extent of that damage. The benefits of quitting are immediate.

Though it is not easy for a heavy smoker to quit suddenly, it is not impossible.

I believe the Health Promotion Department runs free smoking cessation classes and those who really want to quit can use this service before it is too late. One can phone the Quitline on 2326 6116.

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