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Health minister criticised for smoking comments

09 May 2019. Norway's newly appointed health minister, Sylvi Listhaug, has caused controversy by saying people should be allowed to eat, smoke and drink "as much as they want", BBC reported.

Sylvi Listhaug, whose right-wing Progress Party is part of the four-member coalition government headed by the Conservative Party, was appointed as the new health minister on 3 May, a year after being forced to quit over a security row, the report said.

She told Norwegian broadcaster NRK: "People should be allowed to smoke, drink and eat as much red meat as much as they want. The authorities may like to inform, but people know pretty much what is healthy and what is not healthy, I think.”

According to the report, Listhaug says she only smokes rarely now, mainly on social occasions. “I think many smokers feel like pariahs. So they almost feel they have to hide away, and I think that's stupid. Although smoking is not good, because it is harmful, adults have to decide for themselves what they do," she was quoted as saying.

Listhaug does not plan to be “the moral police” and will not tell people how to live their lives, the report said. Norway's Cancer Society's secretary general, Anne Lise Ryel, said Listhaug's comments were potentially harmful to public health. "Many will adhere to what she says. That is to say, public health [has been] set back many decades," she told NRK.