The Skalkottas Room at the Athens Concert Hall was wreathed in metaphorical smoke on Wednesday. Nobody dared light up, of course, as they heard the truth about the lethal consequences of smoking, which starts out as a game or a fashion or a demonstration of virility and becomes a dangerous habit that leads to an often painful death. The room was packed with personalities, officials, doctors and others devoted to the business of health, and many parents had brought their children along to hear the facts. Professor Haralambos Roussos, director of the Thorax foundation and head of the intensive-care unit at Evangelismos Hospital, rightly described World No Tobacco Day as a day of responsibility. On the panel were Grigoris Skalkeas, Athens Academy member, surgeon and professor of surgery, who has headed the anti-smoking campaign as well as Roussos and Professor Athanassios Fokas – aerospace engineer, mathematician, medical school graduate and winner of this year’s Aristeio award from the Bodossaki Foundation. Journalist Mara Zacharea moderated the discussion in which Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos also participated, speaking out forcefully against smoking. Roussos spoke from his long experience with the problems smokers face – from shortness of breath to chronic lung disease. He explained how lung cancer has outstripped breast cancer as a cause of death among women. The statistics on smoking are chilling: «One billion smokers will die this century if they don’t stop smoking,» said Fokas, who called for the matter to be more widely publicized to make the general public more aware of the dangers of a habit that has costs eight times more lives than World War II. Instead of speaking, Skalkeas presented a book, «Tumors of the Chest: Biology, Diagnosis and Management,» written by Roussos and his colleagues Costas Syrigos and Christopher Nutting, which is already going into its second edition. «The dedication emphasizes the contribution made by Aristeides Alafouzos. Thanks to him the oncology unit in the pathology unit at Sotiria hospital was created,» and a warm applause rewarded the generous gift of the president of Kathimerini SA, who was seated in the front row with the health minister and academics. After the grim statistics, mezzo-soprano Mara Moutsopoulou lightened the atmosphere by singing and a reception followed.