Various newspapers, including the The Scotsman, have been reporting this:
A doctor's letter written more than 400 years ago has revealed the medical profession were even then concerned about the risks of smoking to young people. The letter, by Dr Eleazar Duncon, was unearthed by librarians at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) as they prepared for an exhibition.
Professor Sir Neil Douglas, the president of the RCPE, said it gave a "fascinating insight into historical concerns" about smoking and young people.
The amount of attention this little story has been receiving is rather puzzling. As readers of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist will know, various people warned about the health effects of tobacco, almost from the moment it arrived on European shores.
More puzzling, though, is the suggestion that this particular example has only just been "unearthed". The letter has been on the National Library of Australia's database since 1999, and has long since been known by various academic institutions.
One could argue that the RCPE has only just become aware of it, but that defence is undermined by the fact that the letter has been on the RCPE website for at least a year. I know, because that's where I first saw it. If you need proof that it's been there a while, see Michael Siegel's blog, where a reader mentioned it in this comment last December.
In light of this, the idea of Scottish librarians happening upon this "fascinating" letter by chance whilst rifling through dusty old files lacks all credibility. Quite obviously, this was a well-prepared PR exercise directed at newspapers with column inches to fill. And it's been a successful one. The Sunday Express reported it with the headline 'Doctors wanted smoking ban in 1600s', which is not what the letter says at all.
So why has this fairly inconsequential snippet of history suddenly appeared now? The Scotsman provides the answer:
Its existence emerged just days before MSPs at Holyrood consider the principles behind a Scottish government plan to curb the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to youngsters. The matter is due for discussion on Thursday.
Truly, no stone goes unturned in the publicity drive for this campaign.