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against the tobacco industry

A summary of the case can be found here.
(october 2016)

Translation of the Dutch complaint AANGIFTE ENGELS

Anne Marie van Veen
My name is Anne Marie (43), mother of four fantastic children and wife of Rob. In 2014 I was told that I had metastatic lung cancer. I’ve been a smoker for 24 years and started, like most smokers, as a teenager. I tried to quit many times, but never succeeded because I was addicted. Time after time I was tempted to pick up the habit again.

Through the documentary ‘De Vervangers’ (The Replacements), about the children who have to replace dead smokers, I learned that my addiction had been deliberately caused. The tobacco industry does all it can to get young people addicted to tobacco by adding hundreds of substances, marketing their products aggressively, and lobbying intensively. They call children ‘replacement smokers’, because they take the place of smokers who die young. I don’t want that to happen to my children. The tobacco industry has already destroyed me, but it won’t get at my children. After all, soon I won’t be there to care for them.

Sick of Smoking
It is not fair that the tobacco industry causes so many victims yet is allowed to operate with impunity. That has to end. Sick of Smoking not only unites Anne Marie and other victims of the tobacco industry, but also brings together a much broader movement: everybody who is literally or figuratively sick of the practices of the tobacco industry, such as health workers, parents and grandparents and everybody who wants to protect children from becoming addicted to a substance that kills some 6 million victims around the world every year. Sick of Smoking joins the forces to take action.

Heart of the matter
To date, the TI (tobacco industry), both nationally and internationally, has been liable under civil law: individual citizens litigated against the TI. The TI was held liable for the health damage caused by tobacco products. This has regularly resulted in claims upheld by judges. On many occasions the parties reached a settlement during the proceedings in the form of substantial compensation, after which the proceedings instigated by the citizen against the TI were abandoned.

The approach now is different. We believe that the TI should not be able to get off with a guilty verdict in which civil liability is determined, but that the TI must –eventually- be confronted with the verdict of a criminal judge who determines that the TI has committed a criminal offence by producing and supplying a tobacco product.

The process now is not Individual Citizen versus TI, but Public Prosecutor versus TI.

The citizen [Anne Marie van der Veen ea.] reports a criminal offence to the Public Prosecutor, who instigates legal proceedings against the tobacco producers who market cigarettes/tobacco and allow them to be sold to consumers. Both individuals [actual executives] and companies [legal entities] can be prosecuted. Note that prosecution is instigated by the Public Prosecutor!

The criminal offences. Clause 300, Section 4, 301 Criminal Code: deliberately harming the health with intent. Article 302 of the Criminal Code: deliberately causing grievous bodily harm, possibly causing death or a number of other effects.

The fact that tobacco producers manufacture and market cigarettes, even though these cigarettes are designed to get the smoker addicted as quickly as possible, after which the addicted smoker suffers serious damage to health, makes tobacco producers in our view guilty of a criminal offence. [addiction = health damage = deliberately caused brain illness]

The fact that the addicted smoker consciously chooses to smoke cigarettes does not justify the actions of tobacco producers. After all, the freedom of choice of the addicted smoker is deliberately influenced by the addition of addictive substances (nicotine and additives) to cigarettes with the aim of reducing freedom of choice. This jars all the more now that children and young adults are made addicted to toxic cigarettes in this way.

Also, the fact that the government has not prohibited the production and sale of cigarettes does not justify the actions of tobacco producers. After all, the deliberate and premeditated causing of grievous bodily harm, or detrimentally affecting health, is punishable under the Criminal Code. The fact that the government has not prohibited the production and sale of cigarettes does not, in our view, provide relevant grounds to assume no criminal offence.

The Public Prosecutor will exercise restraint in taking on the case. We think that the biggest obstacle will not be the criterion ‘likelihood of prosecution’ but the criterion ‘desirability’ prosecution. We hope to influence this latter criterion by mobilizing public opinion through the Sick of Smoking grassroots movement (SOS, www.sickofsmoking.nl). The more support there is, the more difficult it will be for the Public Prosecutor to dismiss claims. Especially because we believe we have a criminal case against the TI. [likelihood of the case]

‘Designed to addiction’ is our spearhead, which targets a TI that specifically aims to get new, young smokers addicted. These replacement smokers are young people whose brains are still developing. If you deliberately package a product with the aim of making people become dependent on it, even though you know that this product is life threatening and you could also remove the addictive substances from it, you are committing a criminal act.

It is certainly important to encourage surrounding countries to adopt a similar strategy. It is time to look at what the TI actually does and deliberately sets out to achieve. 

Kom ook in actie: Vote against the Tobacco Industry.

A summary of the case can be found here.