Anti-smoking organizations and lawyers from all those countries met in Geneva last week to discuss the Dutch case with lawyer Bénédicte Ficq and lung doctor Wanda de Kanter. The Netherlands is the only country in the world to launch a legal action against the tobacco industry, Joinfo.com reports with reference to AD.nl.
Ficq wants to sue the tobacco industry on behalf of two ex-smokers, Cancer Control and other organizations in the Netherlands because smokers are falsely informed about the actual damage smoking can cause.
Crucial to the argument are the tiny holes in the cigarettes. The cigarettes are tested in laboratories to determine a quantity of nicotine and tar. Test equipment does not take into account the fact that the smoker with his mouth and fingers partially closes the holes, which in practice causes more inhalation than the device measures.
Two Dutch ex-smokers now suffering from severe lung diseases, made the first claims against the tobacco industry last year. In March, cancer charity KWF Kankerbestrijding also launched a legal action against four tobacco producers in the Netherlands because of the “serious harm that causes death”. In the meanwhile, many institutions have joined.
The meeting in Swiss Geneva was an initiative of an American foundation with the cynical name ASH, the Action on Smoking and Health. Thirty lawyers and representatives of human rights organizations from fifteen countries had come to Switzerland, including Argentina, France, India, the United States, Uganda, Switzerland, Norway and Zambia. Germany and Belgium did not come, but they also looked at the possibility of a criminal case in their own legal system.
In some countries, such actions could lead to legal proceedings by the tobacco industry against those patients for defamation.
In Geneva, the meeting was also attended by Jeff Hoffman, head of the American film production company ‘Above The Clouds’. He is now filming a book ‘Civil Warriors’ about the fight against the tobacco industry. For a promotional film, he has already contacted Dutch lung patient Anne Marie van Veen and Lia Breed, who made the first statement.
According to Bénédicte Ficq, international cooperation can strengthen the criminal proceedings against the tobacco industry. It can eventually lead to a condemnation of tobacco producers, and therefore to a decrease in cigarette production.