Christmas is a time for charity and goodwill, but, in the eyes of some critics, a Swedish charity in Norrköping may as well have handed lumps of coal to the homeless instead of what they actually donated: packs of cigarettes.
The charity, called Omsorgsjul – Hemlösa (Care Christmas – The Homeless) has held a Christmas party in eastern Sweden for nearly 20 years. Their guests receive various gifts including chocolate, warm clothes, and, of course, cigarettes, reports MSN.
A Swedish health organization has criticized the charity, saying that giving cigarettes to the homeless sends a poor message, but the charity’s head, Lennart Cederberg, says that giving cigarettes an other gifts is a tradition.
“There would be an outcry if they didn’t receive their cigarettes,” Cederberg said. “It has become a tradition and, moreover, many of them are sick and they must have this,” he continued, adding that the 150 packs handed out this year were light cigarettes, reports Swedish news publication The Local.
“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,” countered Lena Sjöberg, president of Dentistry Against Tobacco. “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.”
Cederberg shrugs off these concerns. “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,” he said. “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.”
Cederberg concluded that, so long as the charity’s donors don’t raise objection to the handing out of cigarettes to the homeless, they’ll continue to do it at their annual Christmas party. “Come and help them and make sure they receive accommodation instead of whining,” Cederberg urged.