5 June, 2015
Leading Western Australian public health campaigners say it's time for big tobacco to be held accountable in Australia following a Canadian court's decision to order three big tobacco firms to pay $16.1 billion to smokers who claimed they weren't warned about the health risks associated with smoking.
A coalition of health agencies in Western Australia have collaborated to produce a full page advertisement in this Saturday's The West Australian newspaper to draw attention to this and urge smokers to quit.
Cancer Council WA Education and Research Director, Terry Slevin, said no similar class actions have ever been launched in Australia, but the damage caused by tobacco companies is nothing short of appalling.
"In WA alone, the cost of tobacco use to individuals, businesses, health care and the government amounts to billions per year, and smokers themselves pay with their lives," Mr Slevin said.
"1,420 deaths in WA were attributable to tobacco use in 2014, and a Western Australian report released last year revealed that the total social costs of smoking and its impact on health care and productivity in the community amount to nearly $3 billion a year."
The Canadian decision was the result of two class action lawsuits which were originally filed in 1998, but only went to trial recently.
They represented nearly 1 million smokers who were unable to quit or who suffered from throat or lung cancer, or emphysema.
Subsidiaries of British American Tobacco, Phillip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International were ordered pay $16.1 billion for moral and punitive damages, which is the largest in Canadian history.
"The bottom line though is that however much the tobacco companies may eventually be forced to pay in damages, it will never compare to the horrific suffering caused to smokers and their loved ones," Mr Slevin said.
"We hope this ad will serve to remind smokers that while tobacco companies may ultimately be brought to account financially, the only way to avoid damage to yourself and your loved ones is to quit smoking or never start."
Those wanting support to quit can:
- Visit the Make Smoking History website: http://makesmokinghistory.org.au/
- Call the Quitline on 13 7848
- Book a Fresh Start course for their workplace, call Cancer Council WA on: 9212 4333
- Talk to their GP or pharmacist