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Looking back: Cruel cigarette hoax takes in thousands of people
7:00pm Saturday 7th September 2013 in News
In September 1985, thousands of people fell victim to a cruel hoax involving cigarette packets.
Scores of groups and organisations had been collecting a million empty packets and returned them to Imperial Tobacco after the company said it would pay for the child to be sent to America for an operation or a dream holiday.
But press officer for the firm Trevor Buckley said: “I’m afraid people have been wasting their time and effort. There is no foundation in this whatsoever.
“It is an extremely cruel hoax and a lot of well-meaning people who genuinely believed they were helping a worthwhile cause have been duped.”
In the same month it was announced that hospitals in the Worthing area and it would set the tone for many more establishments to banish cigarettes.
One anti-smoking member of the Worthing Health Authority said: “You would not make provision for people to inject heroin, so why do it for smoking?”
Next up in December 1985 was schools, as Brighton College head of computer sciences Paul Caswell called for there to be a ban of teachers smoking in schools.
He said: “The rules mean that children will not smoke when teachers are looking and teachers will not smoke when children are looking.
“But we all know what is happening when our backs are turned. If we seriously want kids to stop smoking, we must do more than that.”
In the same month Horsham councillors faced being banned from smoking in meetings, much to the distain of pipe-smoker Coun Major Richard Maywell, who said: “I had a major operation once and my surgeon recommended I have a smoke as soon as possible to clear the congestion on my lungs.
“I’m not in the slightest bit worried about the council’s decision. I shall just take more snuff into meetings – they can’t stop me doing that.”
In January 1987 a man who fell asleep smoking a cigarette was saved by his quick-thinking wife.
Wally Wright, 42, had gone to bed ahead of his wife Fay. When she went to open the bedroom door in Elizabeth Road, Shoreham, she found her husband fast asleep – with the mattress on fire.
She said: “I screamed at him to get up. Luckily he wasn’t hurt.
“It was awful. I am terrified of fire.”
Next to banish the smoke was cinemas, who chose to stub out smokers in March 1987.
A spokesman for the Odeon cinema in Brighton said: “More and more non-smokers find cigarette and pipe smoking irritating.
“There has been growing pressure for us to do this and we felt locally that it would generally be a popular move.
“We’ve had a few grumbles from some smokers but elsewhere it has been tried and proved very popular.”
And in May the same year, smokers hit back at banning smoking on planes, claiming it can seriously damage everybody’s health.
Stephen Eyres, director of pro-smoking organisation FOREST – Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco – said: “Despite pressures from anti-smoking lobby groups, the view of the ordinary passenger is tolerant of smoking.
“Wild claims about the health effects of tobacco smoke on non-smokers cannot be supported as most ventilation systems on planes ensure that the cabin air is thoroughly cleaned.
ON THIS DAY
1522: Ferdinand Magellan's ship the Vittoria, under the command of Del Cano, arrived in San Lucar, Spain, after completing the first circumnavigation of the world. Magellan was not present, having been killed in action on the island of Mactan.
1533: Queen Elizabeth I was born at Greenwich Palace in London, the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
1812: Napoleon's forces marching to Moscow defeated the Russians at the Battle of Borodino, 70 miles west of the city.
1838: Grace Darling, 22, daughter of a lighthouse keeper, made the famous rescue of the crew of the steamship Forfarshire, shipwrecked near the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast.
1892: 'Gentleman' James (Jim) J Corbett beat John L Sullivan in 21 rounds in New Orleans and became the first world heavyweight boxing champion under Queensberry rules - with gloves and three-minute rounds.
1901: The Peace of Peking ended the Boxer Rising in China.
1921: The first Miss America beauty contest was held in Atlantic City.
1936: Buddy Holly (Charles Hardin Holley), rock singer and guitarist, was born. He died in an air crash in 1959, aged only 22, but in his short career produced classic hits such as That'll Be The Day, Peggy Sue and Oh Boy.
1978: Keith Moon, manic drummer with rock group The Who, died in London of a drug overdose.
1986: Bishop Desmond Tutu was appointed Archbishop of Cape Town, the first black head of South African Anglicans.
The Argus’ popular “Looking Back” feature has been compiled into an A4, soft back book which catalogues the events that have made their mark on the people of Sussex. The fascinating archive of “Looking Back” images dates back to the 1930s when The Argus first started to print photographs. The book costs £6.99 including postage and packing. To order please visit theargus.co.uk/store
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