Passive Smoking Killed The Famous Entertainer


The late, great British entertainer Roy Castle (1932-1994) died of smoking-related disease, despite being a non-smoker. He was a very talented all-round performer: a tap dancer, actor, comedian, jazz trumpet player, singer and television presenter. Sadly he died of lung cancer in 1994, after being diagnosed with it in 1992, although he had never smoked. He however blamed contracting this smoking-related disease through his years of playing the trumpet in jazz clubs earlier in his career, clubs that were always thick with smoke. Interviewed in a documentary about his disease he said: “Whilst playing the trumpet in smoky rooms I inhaled great gulps of air – you have to fill your lungs.” So it appears that sadly it was passive smoking which led to his untimely death.

When Castle was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992, he was initially given a life expectancy of only another six months. He had chemotherapy and radiotherapy and went into remission later in the same year. Before his death he set up the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, and raised much-needed funds for this worthy research cause. This was at the time, and still is, the only British charity that is entirely dedicated to finding a cure for lung cancer. There was an occasion when he was at an awards ceremony and he refused to shake former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s hand because of her work for the tobacco giant Philip Morris. (He was only one out of countless people who intensely disapproved of this woman, as the recent demonstrations at her funeral have shown!)

His widow Fiona worked for this charity for many years after her husband’s death, and she was a major figure in the campaigning for the smoking ban in Britain, which was introduced in 2006/2007, and has meant that smoking has now been banned in practically all enclosed public places.  Roy Castle’s illness and death acutely demonstrate the dangers of passive smoking for other people, so it is a shame this ban did not come into effect long ago. Better late than never though, I say. Even before the ban, many establishments, e.g. restaurants, were given the Roy Castle Clean Air Award, to show that they had a smoke-free environment, which was a matter of pride to them, although now of course, it is redundant, due to the ban. At last, society realises the importance of protecting its citizens from the dangers of second-hand smoke (SHS).


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