Australia urged to sue tobacco industry for smoking-related illnesses

By on November 20, 2017


FILE: In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, public health experts from Macquarie University and Curtin University called on state and federal governments to seek remuneration from tobacco companies for the burden put on the public health system by smoking-related illnesses. (Pixabay photo)
FILE: In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, public health experts from Macquarie University and Curtin University called on state and federal governments to seek remuneration from tobacco companies for the burden put on the public health system by smoking-related illnesses. (Pixabay photo)

SYDNEY — Leading Australian experts have called on the country’s governments to hold tobacco companies accountable for damage done to people’s health by taking them to court.

In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, public health experts from Macquarie University and Curtin University called on state and federal governments to seek remuneration from tobacco companies for the burden put on the public health system by smoking-related illnesses.

The authors, led by Macquarie University Health Studies lecturer Ross Mackenzie, said that Australia could use Canada, where the province of British Columbia’s right to sue the tobacco industry was upheld by the Supreme Court, as a precedent.

“An estimated 2.6 million adult Australians were smokers in 2014, and smoking remains the country’s leading preventable cause of death and disease,” they wrote.

“It causes 15,000 deaths annually and is likely to kill two-thirds of current users. Annual health, social and economic costs of smoking were estimated at more than USD 31.5 billion in 2008, and are now considered to be substantially greater.”

Mackenzie and colleagues said there were lessons to be learned from the Canadian experience.

“A major recovery in Australian litigation could potentially push an Australian subsidiary of a global cigarette manufacturer into bankruptcy, depriving plaintiffs of the opportunity to recover full damages… (It is) imperative that the parent (tobacco) companies remain as defendants in legal actions in order to satisfy the large damage awards necessary to provide just financial compensation,” they said.

“Beyond the potential to recover billions of dollars spent on treatment of diseases caused by smoking, publicity around legal action would also emphasize the health and social impacts of tobacco industry corporate behavior, furthering the denormalization of smoking in Australia and generating public and political support for further public health measures.” (Xinhua)