Over a year ago, Dutch attorney Benedicte Ficq took the tobacco industry to court on behalf of patients. The civil case sparked debates on whether or not the tobacco industry should be held accountable for smoking-related illnesses.
According to Eurostat, 17.2% of Dutch people consumed cigarettes daily in 2014. This is lower than in countries such as Spain and France, although higher than countries like Denmark, where 12.3% of people smoke daily.
As the litigation proceeded, Ficq discovered that cigarette companies were confusing g official measurements of damaging substances by making tiny holes in cigarette filters. That led to cigarette smokers taking in 2 to 3 times the amount of harmful substances they otherwise would. Even though there is evidence of tobacco companies contributing to smoking related illnesses (i.e., lung cancer) due to the harmful effects of cigarettes, there are a number of people who say that responsibility lies only with the smokers themselves.
21-year-old Chloe, a long term smoker, says: “I think smokers are aware of the risks to smoking, and the tobacco industry is a business. Just like those who eat unhealthy fast food know of the risks.” Given the large number of smokers in the Netherlands who are aware of the risks, questions are being asked as to how to discourage them from smoking. Although graphic images on cigarette packages are being used as a deterrent, some believe it isn’t enough. “I do think, though, higher taxation on cigarettes would play a bigger role in turning people off smoking, as they would cost so much,” says Chloe.
This civil case raises many questions about the integrity of tobacco and cigarette companies, and whether or not they should be held accountable. The case could lay the groundwork for more legislation in the area of tobacco regulations, which could have a major effect on the industry and could influence other countries.
Opinions are divided, and some say the ones to blame are not always the tobacco industry. Chloe says: “Personally, I think it’s the individual. I also think it depends on the attitudes of those around you. I think if you grew up with parents and friends who smoke, you are more likely to try it.”
Sarah Corrigan (Dublin, Ireland)