After an exceptionally long period of deliberation lasting 15 months, this morning the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it won’t prosecute the tobacco industry in the Netherlands. The accusers will appeal to the court to force the Public Prosecutor to finally start a prosecution.
In recent weeks, it has become clear that there is broad social consensus in the Netherlands for criminal proceedings to be brought against the tobacco industry. On 29 September 2016, criminal charges were filed against four tobacco companies on behalf of lung patients Anne Marie van Veen and Lia Breed and the Youth Smoking Prevention Foundation. Over recent weeks, numerous professional bodies, healthcare institutions, (academic) hospitals, social organizations and the City of Amsterdam have recognized the importance of the charges filed and decided to lend their support to the case.
This is worldwide the first time that criminal charges have been filed against the tobacco industry for, among other things, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, deliberate harm to health, and falsification of documents.
Lawyer Bénédicte Ficq somewhat expected the prosecutor’s decision. “This is no surprise. The tobacco industry for years already is framing the idea that smoking is a free choice. The prosecutors followed this idea entirely. Wrongly so, because smoking is no free choice, but instead a severe addiction. The French say it well: ‘Reculer pour mieux sauter’, step back to jump better. In court we will make the jump forward.”
Lawyer Bénédicte Ficq of legal firm Ficq & Partners filed charges (28th of September 2016) with the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office, on behalf of lung cancer patient Anne Marie van Veen (45, mother of three), COPD patient Lia Breed (66), and the Dutch Youth Smoking Prevention Foundation, against four tobacco manufacturers that are active in the Netherlands: Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco Benelux.
Money is not the aim of the accusers. This is not a civil case, but a criminal one with the ultimate goal to make an end to tobacco in order to protect the health of new generations.
The tobacco manufacturers are accused of attempted murder and manslaughter and/or premeditated attempts to cause grievous bodily harm and/or premeditated attempts to cause damage to health. Another accusation concerns the falsification of documents. The Dutch example was recently followed in France where the Comité National Contre le Tabagisme (CNCT) also filed charges against tobacco manufacturers.
Containing 30 pages as well as annexes, the documentation presented offers detailed evidence of the charges. It is argued that the tobacco industry knowingly and intentionally makes cigarettes more addictive by adding hundreds of substances. They cause new smokers to become addicted quickly, and ensure that existing smokers remain addicted. Moreover, tobacco manufacturers have misled consumers and the government by processing cigarette filters in such a way that they release less tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in test environments than they do in normal use. The difference can be up to 2.5 times greater.
In the past 15 month more and more parties followed suit and also pressed charges. The Dutch Cancer Society and the Dutch Journal of Medicine where among the first. Today more than 35 associations of general practitioners, specialists, dentists, physiotherapists, (academic) hospitals, obstetricians, nurses, patient associations and health funds filed charges, as did the municipality of the Dutch capital Amsterdam. All want that tobacco manufacturers will have to justify themselves for their criminal deeds in court.
A complete list of all supporting organizations can be found at www.sickofsmoking.nl
More backgrounds can be found at www.sickofsmoking.nl/en/