London, May 30 : Former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, an enthusiastic pipe and cigar smoker, considered smoking far less dangerous than crossing the road, and claimed that there was no scientific proof that it was a health hazard.
According to formerly classified government records released today by the National Archives, in 1956 Macmillan dismissed the health risks posed by smoking as "negligible, compared with the risk of crossing a street".
As Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1956, Macmillan urged the Cabinet against warning the public of the risks of smoking.
In shortened notes written by Sir Norman Brook, the Cabinet Secretary, Macmillan was quoted as saying: "Expectation of life 73 for smoker and 74 for non-smoker. Treasury think revenue interest outweighs this. Negligible compared with risk of crossing a street."
Macmillan, then the Chancellor two years before becoming premier, said the revenue from cigarettes was equivalent to raising income tax by three shillings and sixpence (17.5p).
"Not easy to see how to replace it," The Sun quoted Macmillan, as saying.
Macmillan, nicknamed Supermac, was Tory Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963 and died aged 92 in 1986.