The Future Challenges for Tobacco Control
Litigation is likely to play a decreasing role in tobacco control. It has had limited impact outside North America. In large part this is due to structural problems – costs and risks of litigation, lower damage levels including non-availability of punitive damages and lack of class action procedures. These made it difficult to find lawyers sufficiently resourced persuasively to present some of the nuanced arguments based on tobacco companies maintaining the ‘controversy’ and failing to warn of risks about which they may have known more than they let on. This included industry knowledge of the diseases linked to smoking or ETS, the addictive properties of nicotine and their ability to manipulate it as well as the real impact on smokers of using ‘light’ cigarettes. These issues do not seem to have been as well-voiced in Europe as in the US. At times this combined with a seeming judicial reluctance even to engage with arguments that anyone except the smoker should be responsible for the damage caused by their decision to start and continue smoking. Little regard seems to have been paid to the part the industry played in fuelling the controversy about the health effects of smoking and the fact that during the 1960s, and even beyond, there was heated debate about the risks of smoking. Moreover so keen were some judges to absolve the companies of liability that they even thought their view of the law’s ‘individualist philosophy’ was relevant to the scientific question of addiction and determined that smokers could quit if they wanted to. Man’s laws have not yet, however, managed to change natures.