Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Alex Higgins’ love-hate affair with tobacco

05-01-1980. Confetti scatters at the wedding of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and bride Lynn, at the United Reform church in Wilmslow.
21-04-1986, Alex Higgins enjoys a cigarette during a moment's break during the Embassy World Snooker Championship match against John Spencer in Sheffield.
Alex Higgins

Alex Higgins couldn’t give cigarettes up completely — even after contracting throat cancer.

Despite having no urge to quit, he famously railed against the snooker authorities for allowing tobacco companies to sponsor major events — including the Embassy World Championship which he won twice.

Diagnosed with cancer in 1998, the 80-a-day man chose to appear on the BBC1 documentary, Tobacco Wars, in July 1999.

Speaking in a whisper caused by many treatments of radiotherapy and an operation to remove a cancerous lymph node in his neck, Higgins raged that he felt “nothing but disgust” for the industry.

“The tobacco companies and snooker were as thick as thieves,” he claimed. “Obviously I think that they have got their advertising for a song for 25 years. Cigarettes are everywhere in snooker. Freebies everywhere. Most players were given free cigarettes.”

At the time he appeared on the programme, he had a court case outstanding against snooker's governing body and was about to instigate proceedings against the tobacco industry itself.

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