Experts call for tobacco industry to pay for smoking cessation workBMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3157 (Published 10 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3157
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Tobacco industry 'should be sued by UK government' over smokers' healthcare costs: Lessons from the United States
In terms of the extent of preventable harm, no other industry comes close to the tobacco industry. Smoking is the primary cause of preventable illness and premature death, accounting for approximately 100,000 deaths a year in the United Kingdom . According to the recent estimates, smoking cost the National Health Service (NHS) approximately £2 billion a year for treating diseases caused by smoking . Having been misled by the tobacco industry for decades, publicly-funded healthcare expenses resulting from tobacco use are far higher than would otherwise be the case.
It is no secret that the tobacco industry has contributed to the tobacco epidemic, which has significantly affected public's health. It is time for the United Kingdom to follow what the United States did about 20 years ago, and sue the tobacco industry for costs incurred because of smoking. This would bring in billions of dollars which would help the budget, and enable stronger action on smoking. If successful, litigation against the tobacco industry will serve more purposes than just obtaining compensation. It will also be an essential mechanism to reform tobacco industry misconducts, gain policy measures in the interest of protecting public health, and obtain justice for the decades of harm resulting from the industry negligent and deceptive behaviors.
Furthermore, lawsuit will force tobacco companies to end acting in ways damaging to public health, so that in the future the industry will not repeat the actions of the past. Legal action against the tobacco industry may lead to the creation new tobacco control measures that will further reduce tobacco use as did in the United States. Health care cost recovery litigation in the United States resulted in the creation of several tobacco control measures including a ban on tobacco sponsorship, the prohibition of tobacco cartoon characters, and further restrictions on tobacco to minors. These measures have contributed to significant declines in tobacco use in the United States. The UK government could demand further restrictions from tobacco companies as part of a judgment against the industry.
Correspondence to: Roman.Shrestha@UConn.edu
1. Action on Smoking and Health. Smoking statistics: Illness and death. In. http://ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_107.pdf: Action on Smoking and Health; 2013.
2. Action on Smoking and Health. Tobacco economics. In. http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_95.pdf: Action on Smoking and Health; 2014.
Competing interests: No competing interests