Death of Princess Margaret – the reality of smoking

Saturday 09 February 2002

Immediate: Saturday 9th February 2002

Death of Princess Margaret – the reality of smoking

Princess Margaret has almost certainly died as a result of her smoking.  Though many non-smokers also suffer strokes, the risk is considerably increased in smokers, especially heavy smokers.  ASH sent its sympathies to the bereaved, including our Patron, HRH the Duke of Gloucester.  It is likely that Edward VII, George V, George VI all died as a result of smoking.

Princess Margaret had suffered from respiratory disease and had part of a lung removed in January 1985. She had strokes in 1998 and 2001.

Smokers are more likely to develop a cerebral thrombosis (stroke) than non-smokers. The overall relative risk of stroke in smokers is about 1.5 times that of non-smokers.  Heavy smokers (consuming 20 or more cigarettes a day) have 2-4 times greater risk of stroke than non-smokers.  7,300 people die each year from stroke caused by their smoking – slightly more women than men.  120,000 people die from diseases caused by their smoking each year.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH, said:

“Smoking causes the most wretched diseases, and stroke is one of the worst.  While everyone dies eventually, Princess Margaret suffered a long period of disability and decline, and most of that will have been due to smoking.” 

“Smoking has been a blight on our society and also our Royal family.  Princess Margaret joins a line of royals including her father, George VI, that have been killed by smoking.

“In her younger years, she lived the high life of glamour, society events and glittering parties, but this just heightens the contrast of her decline and disability as the diseases caused by smoking took over her life.

“Even after having a lung removed and her first stoke, she continued to smoke – that has to be the most eloquent and chilling testimony to the addictive power of cigarettes.  You can’t be judgemental about that, but it should be a wake-up call to the reality of smoking – a highly toxic addictive drug posing as a glamorous accessory and comforting friend.

“If there is something good that can come from this, I hope that Princess Margaret’s suffering and lingering decline will help some of her admirers to find the strength and courage to quit smoking.  Her very personal experience of smoking tells a tale that is all too common, and so rarely spoken about.


Clive Bates 44 77 6879 1237 (mobile) ISDN available