The Scotsman - Top Stories - Tobacco company to deny cancer claim: A TOBACCO company which is being sued by a Scots widow following the death of her husband will claim in a landmark case at the Court of Session that smoking does not cause lung cancer. The multi-million pound action, the first in Europe to have reached a full hearing, could lead to an avalanche of similar cases and is likely to have massive implications for public health. Court documents seen by The Scotsman suggest Imperial Tobacco will argue that smoking has not been proven as a cause of lung cancer. Instead, the company will claim other factors such as occupation, alcohol consumption and diet may be responsible.
OK, that's a novel approach. "You know the 100 years of research that's been done on both sides of the Atlantic, that stuff that all says that smoking contributes to lung cancer? All wrong. No, really. All those documents put on the web from the Brown and Williamson case, where it's documented that the US cigarette companies were lying about both the carcinogenic and addictive qualities of tobacco? All fake. No, really, we mean it. Would we lie to you?"
I can understand European tobacco companies hoping to avoid the ruinous route taken by the American companies. Makes perfectly good sense. However, this would seem to be a path that would open them up to all sorts of problems, not least the court feeling that they're simply not taking this action seriously.
All that said ... you know, it still seems somewhat wrongheaded. To be sure, the companies did lie. They did falsify data, and should (and have, here) be held responsible for that. But ... surgeon general's and equivalent warnings have been on cigarettes for more than 30 years both here and there. Surely at some point, you ought to be able to say, "Look, if personal sovereignty and personal responsibility mean anything, they mean that when we tell you for thirty freakin' years that the damn things cause cancer, and you don't stop, then some part of this is your own damn fault. Yes, we gave you the agent, yes we lied about how bad it was, yes we made it as addictive as all get out. Nonetheless, it was your choice to stick the damn thing in your mouth in the first place, and it was your choice to keep smoking the damn thing after we started saying, with ever increasing stridency required by legislation, 'Yo! This thing causes cancer! It's bad for you!' So why are we the only ones responsible for this mess?"
Mind, I'm no friend of the tobacco companies. If they all went out of business tomorrow, I would feel desperately sorry for all the people in the South who would suddenly and without warning have to find new ways to make a living other than the tobacco trade. (And this country would probaby enter what would become a truly spectacular depression, since a full quarter of the country would suddenly find large numbers of people unemployed. The ripple effect would actually be pretty damn painful everywhere, really.)Posted by iain at August 13, 2003 12:41 AM