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Homeless people get cigarettes for Christmas

Published: 15 Dec 2012 11:42 GMT+01:00

The charity, called Omsorgsjul - Hemlösa (Care Christmas - the Homeless) has organized traditional Christmas smorgasbords in Norrköping for the past 17 years.

At this year's Christmas party, the charity handed out gifts like hats, warm clothes and boxes of chocolate to the homeless and other vulnerable people who attended the festivities. The guests also received a pack of cigarettes each.

"There would be an outcry if they didn't receive their cigarettes," Lennart Cederberg, head of the charity, told the local Folkbladet newspaper.

"It has become a tradition and, moreover, many of them are sick and they must have this," Cederberg said, adding that the 150 packs handed out this year were light cigarettes.

Lena Sjöberg, president of Dentistry Against Tobacco (Tandvård mot tobak) said handing out cigarettes "sends the wrong signal".

"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 Sjöberg.

"Only the tobacco industry needs tobacco. Besides, the government has decided that we should try and reduce tobacco use among those who smoke the most, including the homeless."

Asked if he thinks handing out cigarettes sends "the wrong signal", Cederberg replied: "These people are our friends whom we care about and in this context the cigarettes aren't that dangerous. They smoke all the time anyway."

"They have smoked for a long time. We can't take that away from them. The most important thing is that we don't hand out alcohol and money."

He said the recipients keep calm by smoking and that those who complain about the unorthodox Christmas gift should instead focus on the real problem, which is homelessness.

"Come and help them and make sure they receive accommodation instead of whining," Cederberg urged.

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

None of the charity's donors have complained about the cigarette gifts. If they do, said Cederberg, the charity would have to rethink its policy.

"Otherwise we will continue handing out cigarettes at the Christmas party," he stated.

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Your comments about this article

12:03 December 15, 2012 by swinglish
"Come and help them and make sure they receive accommodation instead of whining," Cederberg urged.

Well said.
15:10 December 15, 2012 by Rishonim
Kudos to Lennart Cederberg. There is nothing wrong with handing out a pack of smoke to the homeless. They're already down and under and sometimes the only comfort and dignity they find is blowing out some smoke.
16:33 December 15, 2012 by engagebrain
Why not just give some money and let them spend it any way they want.

Rishonim - there is little dignity in dying of lung cancer.
17:37 December 15, 2012 by Rishonim
engagebrain, there is no dignity in death. all deaths are immoral. There is a fantastic book written by a professor of mine; it is called Dance with Chance. I recommend it.
20:17 December 15, 2012 by Svensksmith
Huh? All death is immoral???

Death is natural. Everything dies. How is it immoral?
21:29 December 15, 2012 by Emerentia
I hope the people who donate money to this charity know that they spend it on cigarettes instead of food and clothes. I would give a single krona to such a charity. The 7500 kr they spent on cigarettes, they could have given a lot of clothes and food, and roof over the heads. to people who really need it.

If a person start smoking when they are like 15, and smoke a pack of cigarettes a a day for 50 years, that will cost them about 900 000 kr. If they had saved those money instead of buying cigarettes (and alcohol), they could easily have bought a place to live and didn't have to be homeless.
06:54 December 16, 2012 by Flygger
Can't believe how sanctimonious some posters here are.

I also wonder how many homeless people there are who have never smoked or touched alcohol in their lives.

I wonder if perhaps Emerentia was smoking something or drinking something when they put down their ridiculous comment.. like..
14:49 December 17, 2012 by BroX
@Emerentia: the charity is spend on cigarettes AND food and clothes.

Typical Swedish rational: "The most important thing is that we don't hand out alcohol..."
15:10 December 17, 2012 by frankstrudel
"Some of these people have to go into communal garbage rooms to smoke. The cigarettes help them stay awake and keep them from freezing to death."

Garbage, drowsiness and cigarettes sound like a terrible combination.
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