• May 26, 2024

Campaigners Urge Criminal Charges

 Campaigners Urge Criminal Charges
Photo: Justin

Tobacco control advocates should consider holding tobacco corporations and executives criminally liable for their actions, according to a study published in Tobacco Control. Doing so, the authors write, could provide a workaround in legislative systems that lack the political will to support or implement tobacco control policies.

The authors highlight what they perceive as shortcomings of civil cases, where victory usually means an award of money to the injured party—which the tobacco industry easily pays and then goes back to business as usual. In the United States, tobacco industry still prevails in at least 25 percent of civil cases brought against it.

A criminal case, by contrast, could include court orders and possibly even the dissolution of the corporation or jail time for executives. It could also help delegitimize the industry, make it harder for tobacco companies to recruit top talent, have a deterrent effect and allow anti-tobacco groups and governments to learn more about the harms perpetuated by the industry through the discovery process, according to the authors.

To support their suggestions, the authors cite a proof-of-concept case in the Netherlands, where an antismoking group asked the public prosecutor to bring criminal charges against Philip Morris International, BAT, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco Benelux for fraud, manslaughter and attempted murder. While the public prosecutor eventually declined to press charges, the case generated an enormous amount of publicity about the harms of smoking, resulting in a “communication and education” victory, according to the authors.