Netherlands Cancer Institute files a report against tobacco manufacturers

The Netherlands Cancer Institute files a report against four tobacco manufacturers that are active in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) is the first hospital/research institution in the Netherlands to join the growing coalition of individual patients and anti-tobacco and health organizations that already filed reports against the tobacco industry.

The Netherlands Cancer Institute is among the top 10 of best cancer institutes in the world. The step by NKI helps to raise public pressure on the Dutch Public Prosecution Service to bring the case to court.

By pressing charges the NKI asks the Public Prosecution Service to take steps against the tobacco manufacturers. The NKI believes that it is ‘banging its head against a brick wall’ and this has to stop. Figures show that no less than 30% of the NKI patients die as a result of smoking. In the Netherlands, at least 55 people die every day because of smoking. As a result of their smoking behaviour of 20 years ago, women are now more likely to die from lung cancer than from breast cancer.

The best possible care
According to the NKI, civil proceedings across the world have not solved the problem of smoking. “Every day, we do our utmost to provide cancer patients with the best possible care. Our researchers and practitioners are continuously looking for solutions to the cancer problem and the best treatment for all their patients. At the same time, we see tobacco manufacturers knowingly cause people to become addicted to the most carcinogenic product in existence: the cigarette”, says professor René Medema, chairman of the Board of Directors of the NKI. “No less than 30% of all the cancer patients get the disease as a result of smoking. Many people still do not sufficiently realize that two out of three smokers actually die from the effects of tobacco. A quarter of them die even before their retirement. Smoking also affects the occurrence of chronic diseases such as COPD, heart and brain failure. The risk of, for example, a heart attack is three to six times higher.”

Call
It is not the first time the Netherlands Cancer Institute speaks out against the tobacco industry. Last year, the Board of Directors called on the negotiators of the current government, asking them to work on a tobacco-free society in this new government term as well. According to the NKI, smoking is one of the most serious addictions, the tobacco industry knows that and acts upon it in a scandalous way. The blame for the addiction therefore lies with the tobacco industry, not with those who have knowingly been made addicted.

Report
For the Netherlands Cancer Institute, the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ taken by physicians, combined with the NKI’s goals and evolving insights, has induced the organisation to file a report at this very moment. Medema: “Our goal is to understand cancer and to improve cancer treatments. It cannot be that this goal is not achieved and is interfered with by tobacco manufacturers. Based on our mission on the one hand, the oath taken by our physicians on the other hand and the social responsibility it involves, we believe that we have to take action. By being the first to file a report, we hope that many other doctors, hospitals and/or research institution will follow.”

Criminal case
The report in the current criminal case against tobacco manufacturers was filed by criminal lawyer Bénédicte Ficq with the Public Prosecution Service in Amsterdam today. In 2016, on behalf of a number of social organisations and patients (including the Dutch Cancer Society and the Dutch Journal of Medicine), she pressed charged against the four largest tobacco manufacturers that are active in the Netherlands. The charges are grievous bodily harm, intentionally injuring people’s health and forgery of documents. And now the NKI joins the case. Ficq is very pleased with these steps and the call of the Netherlands Cancer Institute: “Doctors should gain a much more thorough understanding of nicotine addiction in order to inform their patients better. Explaining them how they are being lied to, what nicotine addiction is and how malicious and vicious manufacturers and the product are”, says Ficq. “You’re not only a good doctor if you treat your patients well, but also if you believe that you have a preventative, informational role. The steps taken by the NKI are an enormous help. The tobacco industry must be stopped. Especially given the fact that the industry is now trying to induce vulnerable people in the third world to start smoking en masse. This is incredibly criminal in my opinion.”

Other hospitals
Already the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) has declared it will follow the example of NKI and also file a report against the tobacco industry. Different other hospitals have said they will consider to do the same.

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