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« Whatever happened to ... | Main | BBC Radio and the smoking ban »

Did Roy Castle smoke?

I'm not one of those people who is obsessed by whether Roy Castle did or not smoke. Nor do I wish to attack him (or his memory) because I wouldn't wish lung cancer on my worst enemy and I applaud his efforts, after he was diagnosed, to help raise £12m to build, equip and run an international centre for lung cancer research.

Nevertheless, since his death in 1994 this popular light entertainer has been held up as proof that non-smokers can contract lung cancer as a result of passive smoking, the implication being that he was a victim of working in smoky clubs.

I suspect that no-one knows the truth, but in cases such as this we should certainly consider other factors.

This morning, on the Five Live phone-in, the chief executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Dr Rosemary Gillespie, was asked a direct question: did Roy Castle smoke cigars? Her reply:

"I am not prepared to discuss whether Roy Castle smoked."

Given the importance of Roy Castle to the passive smoking debate, I think we should be told, don't you?

Above: Deathbed, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation poster

Reader Comments (11)

I have posed these questions and points to Dr. Gillespie and have yet to ellicit a response. I will pose it again.

However can I ask you for the record does The Roy Castle Lung Foundation claim that he died of lung cancer (LC) from second hand smoke (SHS)?

If so what form of lung cancer did he die of? Adenocarcinoma, non small cell etc? There are over 30 other causes of LC in non smokers were these possibilities ever followed up?

Also and most importantly was a genetic test done on him? LC in smokers and non smokers is a completely different aetiology (causation). In non smokers it is a mutation of the EGFR or GPC5 genes, while in smokers it is a specific mutation of the p53 gene called a guanine to thymine transversion, caused by ingestion of benzo(a)pyrene a 5 ring benzene molecule and is a class A carcinogen.

“The fact that the mutation spectrum of the p53 tumor suppressor gene in lung tumors of ETS-exposed nonsmokers generally differs from that found in tumors of active smokers lends additional support to the notion that the majority of tumors found in ETS-exposed nonsmokers have nothing to do with tobacco smoke. The one-sided preoccupation with ETS as a causative factor of lung cancer in nonsmokers may seriously hinder the elucidation of the multifactorial etiology of these tumors.....This goal can be achieved, however, without the introduction of an extremist legislation based on a negligible risk of lung cancer as well as an unsupported and highly hypothetical risk for CHD."

Until we have these questions answered you have no right to say that Roy Castle died from passive smoking.

December 14, 2010 at 10:54 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Whether or not Roy Castle smoked, how come he is the only one publicised who apparently contracted lung cancer from SHS?

100's of performers spent their lives working in these smokey clubs, some went on, like Roy, to bigger things, so if SHS caused him to contract lung cancer, why no-one else? It seems extremely unlikely that the media would not have broadcast any other such instances, let alone the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, as it would strengthen their claims about Roy.

Like you Simon, I do not wish to attack Roy Castle or his family, but I cannot make any logical sense of the argument.

Also, like you, I do believe that once and for all the public should be made aware whether or not Roy Castle smoked at any time during his life and what it was he did smoke. As no-one wants to say one way or the other, then it seems pretty obvious that he did smoke at some time, otherwise these people would be falling over themselves to deny such claims. As they cannot, then some of the anti's who continually hold Roy up as an example of SHS can apparently do would have to rethink their arguments.

December 14, 2010 at 11:00 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

I think Dr Gillespie answered the question satisfactorily and blew her bonkers organisation out of the water. "Back of the net", arm bent at elbow and fist clenched.
Even had he not smoked, the claimed excess risk for lc from passive smoking is 0.2. Hence the probability he got lc from passive smoking, according to the anti tobacco industry, is 0.2/1.2 = 1/6.

December 14, 2010 at 16:02 | Unregistered Commenteranon


I will start off by saying that I do not believe SHS causes lung cancer (LC).

However the figures are worse than that. The incidence of LC in non smokers is 5.6 per 100,000 per year. The SCOTH Committe puts the risk at 25% to SHS exposure. Hence 80% of non smoking deaths from LC are not tobacco related.

Therefore 5.6/5 = 1.12

Basically taking ASH's figures there would be 1 death per 100,000 people from LC contracted from SHS a year out of a population of 60 million = 600 people.

3,000 people die on the roads so you are 5 times more likely to die crossing the road than you are from getting lung cancer from SHS.

I will say again because the aetiology (causation) of LC in non smokers is a different genetic mutation, few and more probably no one has died from LC from SHS inhalation.

December 14, 2010 at 17:11 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Wasn't Castle a trumpet player? And didn't horn players used to use a cleaner for their instruments that is now banned due to its carcinogenic nature?

December 14, 2010 at 17:32 | Unregistered Commenterchris

In fact, I think that - to quote you, Simon - "given the importance of Roy Castle to the passive smoking debate," the question has been answered very convincingly and none of us need ask any more whether or not Roy Castle smoked cigars! It's just a shame that interviewers don't say, when confronted with such a side-stepping move (politicians are the worst at it), "Well, I think that tells everyone what the answer to that question is," before moving swiftly onto the next topic. Question-evaders the world over would be furious!

December 14, 2010 at 18:50 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I can produce two witnesses, both musicians, who saw Roy Castle smoking cigars. For the record one of them smokes, the other doesn't. Both worked in smoky clubs. Neither has cancer. Neither plays the trumpet.

December 14, 2010 at 20:59 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Speller

Hello George Spellar.

Would it be possible for you to get your friends to make statements regarding seeing Roy smoke? I am talking about a simple statement, preferably in writing, as to roughly when, where and how often they saw him smoking.

December 14, 2010 at 22:38 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Lyn, you said "100's of performers spent their lives working in these smokey clubs".

May I correct you in the kindest possible way, 1000's, and globaly 100's of thousands.

December 15, 2010 at 1:34 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

Roy Castle only assumed that his lung cancer was caused by cigarette smoke, because like millions of others at that time he thought that lung cancer was only caused by smoking. Nobody could have known the real cause while he was still alive (no autopsy).
He only spent a few years in clubs while the likes of Acker Bilke, Chris Barber are over 80yo and are still performing today.

December 15, 2010 at 14:36 | Unregistered Commenterchas

Roy Castle smoked cigars. He was also subjected to an inordinbate amount of Fuller's Earth. There are many respiratory health issues in the entertainment industry. Glycol based fog fluids are known to cause difficulty in breathing, respiratory distress and respiratory tract irritation. Oil based fog fluids are now classified as human carcinogens. Chlorides were often used in theatrical productions to create thick rolling smoke effects. These chlorides can cause permanent lung damage when inhaled.

Organic dusts have also been widely used and have been shown to cause a variety of acute and chronic lung problems by particulate irritation of the respiratory tract. Fuller's earth was a stage prop commonly used in film, TV and stage productions to create 'dusty' effects. Fuller's earth is a term used to describe any mineral dust and generally consists of aluminum magnesium silicates; montmorillonite, attapulgite, kaolin, kaolinite, floridin, diatomite, bentonite, palygorskite, wilkonite and halloysite. The dust from Fuller's Earth can contain various amounts of free crystalline silica which is a known human carcinogen. Palygorskite can cause fibrotic lung diseases similar to asbestosis. Acute silicosis can occur in people exposed to high concentrations of dust containing silica over a short period of time. Bentonite enables the dust to be suspended in the air for several hours and to be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Exposure can cause the inflammation of the pleura and chronic exposures may lead to chronic obstructive or restrictive lung disease.

A Quote from Roy Castle;

"My favourite moment of 'Carry On Up the Khyber' was the famous eating scene. We all had to continue eating and chatting completely oblivious of the explosions going on all around us. As the place slowly disintegrated and debris fell into our food, we pushed it around our plates and tried to avoid actually 'eating' any. The scene continued for what seemed an eternity, and this being a filming technique where the actors never actually played to the camera, no-one had noticed the crew's practical joke. We carried on pushing the food around which now included Fuller's earth powder (not harmful but equally not appetising). Eventually we had to put some of the revolting concoction in our mouths."

May 27, 2012 at 23:44 | Unregistered CommenterMummy

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