Legal Aid Board decision denies justice for smokers

Wednesday 17 July 1996
ASH/ Press releases/

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Press Release

17th July 1996

Action on Smoking
and Health

Legal Aid Board decision deniesjustice for smokers

The Legal Aid Board’s decision to deny smokerssuffering from tobacco related disease recourse to sue the tobacco industry has beenreceived with disappointment by ASH – the Campaign for the Freedom from Tobacco.

Pamela Furness, ASH’s Chief Executive said,”This decision is a painful set-back for the three hundred smokers in the classaction whose lives have been irrevocably damaged by tobacco. There is no doubt that theLegal Aid Board’s judgement was the most important one it has ever had to make because ofthe sheer size of the case. It is clear that the cost of funding such a gargantuan taskwas just too big, especially in light of the cutbacks the Board is having to face.

“The Board’s decision does not absolve thetobacco industry from negligence. ASH strongly believes there is still a case to answer.The tobacco industry has failed in its duty of care to its consumer by consistentlydenying that its product is lethal and highly addictive. The industry could have loweredtar and nicotine levels when it first discovered the dangers over the thirty years ago,but it did not. Many smokers, now suffering from debilitating and terminal illnessescaused by tobacco, may not have had their lives ruined if these levels had been reduced.Many thousands of people started smoking in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s, invariably aschildren, before the health consequences of their addiction was publicly made known.

“There is a tragic degree of urgency aboutpursuing the cases because these people are terribly ill and will die before the tobaccocompanies finally pay for the damage they have done. ASH is committed to continuing thefight to make the tobacco industry pay for the death and devastation its product hascaused.

“ASH is determined justice will be done.We are examining other ways of pursuing legal action against the tobacco industry withoutthe help of legal aid.

“ASH is, therefore, launching an appealfor funds to support the legal battle. Anyone whose life has been harmed by or who haslost a loved one to smoking, I urge you to support ASH’s legal campaign against thetobacco industry.”



Notes for Editors:
The tobacco industry is facing legal challenges all over the world. The United States havenumerous legal cases outstanding with at least eight States suing the tobacco industry forthe costs of Medicare. There are individual cases against the tobacco industry inScotland, Ireland, Finland and Italy. Australia, New Zealand, and Canada are awaitingdecisions from their legal aid boards.

The Legal Aid Board granted aid last year tofund the research into this case. The findings were presented to the Legal Aid Committeeon 9/7/96 and 16/7/96. The Board looked at two aspects: firstly, whether the merits of thecase justified legal aid; and secondly, whether the benefits would outweighs the cost.

Contact Amanda Sandford (020) 7739 5902

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