June 19 -- For Queen Margrethe of Denmark, it's good to be queen: she greets visiting royalty, dances at street fairs and exhibits her own artwork. And, oh yes, she smokes three packs a day.
"You have very much the face of the country you belong to, I think. I think that is typical," the queen once said.
And although Queen Margrethe was talking about royal responsibility, the 61-year-old royal could have been talking about Denmark's passionate affair with cigarettes. More women smoke in Denmark than in any other country in Europe — a total of 40 percent.
Still, it took a Belgian professor to point out something rotten in Denmark: in the mid-1970s, deaths of Danish women began to rise.
"What happened in Denmark is that in the early '70s Queen Margrethe II of Denmark ascended to the throne of Denmark and she is very popular in Denmark and she is also a chain smoker," said Professor Hugo Kesteloot of Katholieke University in Leuven, Belgium.
Basically, he accused the queen, who smokes in public, of being a bad influence on her subjects. And Kesteloot's theory was just published in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal.
A Royal Dismissal
At a press conference, the queen was undaunted by the academic's critique. Her laughing response came with cigarette in hand: "I smoke wherever there's an ashtray," said the queen.
The professor seemed dismayed at the royal dismissal.
"I must say that her reactions to my article were rather unexpected and emotional and not very rational," he said.
So what is a Dane to do?
"I have no recommendation whatsoever to give...if they are rational [and] understand what is going on, I think they are intelligent enough to make their own conclusions," Kesteloot said.
Amid the publicity, the queen's husband, Prince Henrik, jumped to his wife's defense. "We mustn't be impressed or influenced by political correctness," he told the Daily Telegraph.
The prince also noted that the queen's mother, Ingrid, "who smoked more thanher daughter, died last year aged 90."