Swedish charity hands out cigarettes

Dec. 16, 2012 at 10:16 AM

NORRKOPING, Sweden, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A Swedish charity says its holiday cigarette giveaway for the homeless is an honest reflection of their lives.

The Care Christmas - the Homeless organization said it doesn't give out money or alcohol to the down-and-out in the city of Norrkoping, but most of the homeless people they deal with are hooked on smoking and can be miserable without their tobacco fix.

"There would be an outcry if they didn't receive their cigarettes," Lennart Cederberg, head of the charity, told Folkbladet. "It has become a tradition and, moreover, many of them are sick and they must have this."

"Some of these people have to go into communal garbage rooms to smoke," Cederberg added. "The cigarettes help them stay awake and keep them from freezing to death."

The Local.se said the good intentions still struck a sour note with Swedish health organizations, who said Sweden was trying to reduce overall tobacco use. "I think it is in the human interest to try to inspire people to take up more healthy habits, and giving cigarettes as Christmas presents is not the right way forward," said Lena Sjoberg, president of Dentistry Against Tobacco.

Cederberg countered that critics would be more helpful if they pitched in to tackle the homeless issue rather than nitpick about a Christmas handout.

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