Magazine article The Spectator

Bad Habits

Magazine article The Spectator

Bad Habits

Article excerpt

When I was a child I used to look forward to the snooker on television. I liked the atmosphere of knife-edge smoulder. I liked the way in which the players made louche lunges in the air with their cues. They had cobalt eyes that had the 20/20 steeliness of gangland hitmen. You wouldn't have wanted to mess with any of them, except perhaps the cake-batter smooth Steve Davis who always looked slightly out of place anyway.

Of course they smoked, how they smoked; what nonchalant Gary Cooperesqe rings they made with those white wands of tobacco. If they were dicing with disease or even death it was with a wry smile and a shrug of a pair of world-weary shoulders.

So what on earth is this, then, in the newspapers? The most gnarled and smokiest of them all, Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, has announced he is suing the tobacco industry for giving him throat cancer.

According to reports Higgins has instructed a solicitor to sue the makers of Benson and Hedges and Embassy brands of cigarettes. He is accusing the industry of withholding evidence that cigarettes are addictive and cause cancer. Higgins, who is 50, began smoking in his teens. He said that, at the time, he was not aware of the health dangers.

My father died of cancer, of the throat actually. He didn't smoke cigarettes but he did smoke cigars, though he never inhaled them. When the disease was diagnosed he asked the doctors if the tumour might have been caused by smoking. They replied that in complete honesty they didn't know. But he had asked the question out of personal curiosity; it would never have crossed his mind to enquire for the purpose of suing anyone.

Taking people to the courts does not seem the correct way for a sporting hero to behave. Somehow, without wishing to sound harsh, it is not the sporting thing to do. I know what a horrible disease cancer is but it can also provide an opportunity to set an example. What ever happened to manfully, stoically suffering a disease? What happened to putting on a cheerful face for the sake of one's family and friends? I have a right to speak because my father, during the months of his very painful last illness, barely complained, and never in public. He would have rather died.

In fact, he did. Another thing a hero doesn't do is renege on personal responsibility. …

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