You have to love David Hockney. The artist, who has a brilliant show on at the Royal Academy in London, never backs down from controversy. In recent years, he has refused to paint a portrait of the Queen and passed on a knighthood. Now, Hockney is defending cigarettes.

A letter written to the Guardian in response to this personal attack calls them "delicious" and "pleasure-giving."

The point of his words, however, are more salient than a simple celebration of the world's most dangerous plant. Hockney, who writes, "I for one am not sure medicine is a science – human beings are messy and all a little bit different, and I rejoice in that," wonders if contemporary culture is not, in and of itself, a danger to the world's youth. Why, then, single out cigarettes?