The government were facing further embarrassment tonight following the leaking of a controversial report from the Department of Health. The eight hundred page document draws on a decade's worth of research by senior scientist Dr. Hugh Dentith and concludes that cigarettes are in fact good for you.
Dentith, a former Nobel Prize nominee, states "tobacco is essentially a vegetable and as such it provides many of the vitamins and nutrients that so many people lack in their everyday diet". He goes on to suggest that smoking as few as seven cigarettes a day would count as four of the recommended fruit and vegetable portions required to supplement health in young adults.
These findings add to the growing pressure to overturn the smoking ban, pressure which began to gather momentum last month when anecdotal evidence was seemingly supported by a wartime report declassified under the freedom of information act. This document was widely claimed to shed light on the origins of the folk-wisdom proverb "an apple a day keeps the doctor away", revealing that the phrase was changed from "a cigarette a day..." by the Home Office in 1947, a direct attempt to bolster public morale in the face of severe tobacco rationing.
Rumours around Whitehall are that an emergency think-tank has been assembled to produce a strategy that will both soften the blow of the impending policy u-turn and begin to undo what is now being seen as twenty years worth of damage by the anti-smoking lobby. Early signs are that the media will play a significant role in the government's approach, with early ideas including the reprisal of children's favourite Popeye - his strength engendering spinach replaced by ten Lambert and Butler.
It is understood that Channel 4 have already been commissioned for two new prime time shows. The first, tentatively titled 'The C-Word' will feature celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey exploring the forgotten art of rolling your own. The second, believed to be 'Jamie's School Bifters' will take a more documentary approach, subjecting a group of eleven year olds from an inner-London school to an intense programme of nicotine introduction. The children will be split into groups and their health improvements compared as they each puff their way through different brands - Camel, Mayfair and Embassy.
Tory peer Lord Marlborough rather predictably welcomed the news. Speaking outside his 'Woodbine' Estate he had the following comments: "We in the industry have always known cigarettes are beneficial to your health, and it's good to see we are no longer being ignored. As I've always maintained, if it's good enough for Walter Raleigh, it's good enough for your toddler".