Tobacco firms in the clear

A Dutch appeals court yesterday refused to order public prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the activities of tobacco companies, according to an Associated Press story.
In a written ruling that upheld an earlier decision by prosecutors not to open an investigation, The Hague Appeals Court said that because cigarettes adhered to European Union regulations, there was no criminal behaviour by tobacco companies.
‘The fact that cigarettes can have an addictive character and can create health risks changes nothing,’ the court said.
Dutch lawyer Benedicte Ficq in 2016 sought a criminal prosecution on behalf of ex-smokers and a youth smoking prevention organization. Hospitals, doctors and other groups later joined the action.
Ficq called for the prosecution of Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco Benelux.
Ficq’s complaint alleged that the tobacco companies were liable because of ‘the large-scale, decades-long and ongoing production and sale of addictive tobacco products in the Netherlands’. It alleged also that tobacco companies deliberately declared cigarette delivery levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide that were lower than the actual delivery levels.
Jan Hein Straeter, director of the Dutch cigarette makers’ association, the VSK, welcomed the court’s ruling.
“The appeal court’s decision is no surprise for the VSK, given that the public prosecutor’s office already rejected the complaint in February in a strongly worded decision and concluded that tobacco companies adhere to the law,” Straeter said.
Meanwhile, a Dutch News story reported the court as saying that the complainants in the case were ‘at the wrong address’. Instead, they should be pressuring the government to change the laws.