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Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 13:39 GMT
Tobacco companies' legal challenge dismissed

Cigarettes Tobacco companies challenged claims in the report

A legal challenge by tobacco companies to the content of an influential government advisory committee report on the health risks of smoking has been thrown out by a High Court judge.

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  • The ruling comes just days after the Court of Appeal rejected a claim by the tobacco industry that the government's proposed ban on tobacco advertising was illegal. That case has now gone to the House of Lords.

    Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco had applied for a judicial review of the report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH).

    The companies were unhappy that they were not consulted over the content of the report, and took issue with some of its findings.

    The tobacco industry's strategy of using the courts at every opportunity to block legitimate tobacco policy is falling apart around them
    Clive Bates, Director, Action on Smoking and Health
    In particular, they were upset by the claim that the tobacco companies must recruit more than 300 new smokers every day in order to replace smokers who die from tobacco-related disease.

    They also claim that the committee chose to ignore research showing that there is no health threat posed by passive smoking.

    However, the High Court has ruled that because SCOTH is an advisory committee and does not make policy or exercise executive power, there was no basis for a judicial review.

    The judge also dismissed the tobacco industry argument that it had been harmed by the report, and said the committee could consult with who it likes.

    Industry disappointed

    Paul Sadler, a spokesman for Imperial Tobacco, said: "We are disappointed that the judge did not agree that the committee should be subject to judicial review and did not consider the facts of the case at all.

    "We will continue to behave responsibly and comply with all the regulations and agreements as we have always done."

    Mr Sadler said Imperial took particular exception to comments attributed in the SCOTH report to the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome.

    It was claimed that the tobacco industry had five main marketing goals:

    • To increase consumption among existing smokers
    • To undermine motivation to quit the habit
    • To get former smokers to take up the habit again
    • To encourage adults to start smoking
    • To encourage young people to experiment with tobacco

    Mr Sadler said that under a voluntary agreement, tobacco companies concentrated exclusively on encouraging existing smokers to switch brands.

    Strategy falling apart

    Clive Bates Clive Bates applauded the decision
    Clive Bates, director of the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: "The tobacco industry's strategy of using the courts at every opportunity to block legitimate tobacco policy is falling apart around them.

    "We think the industry should come out and apologise for its crude attack on this committee of eminent scientists and for wasting everyone's time."

    The SCOTH report offers guidance on passive smoking, addiction and marketing of tobacco products.

    Mr Bates said: "The tobacco industry can't stand having the scientific truth laid out in such clear and authoritative terms and has tried to muddy the waters and cast a shadow over the report by taking gratuitous and time-wasting legal action."

    Public health minister Yvette Cooper said: ""We are delighted with the outcome of this judgement. The role of bodies such as SCOTH is to provide scientific advice on tobacco and health issues.

    "The tobacco companies were suggesting that SCOTH should have consulted the industry before presenting the Government with advice. This assertion, which the High Court has now dismissed, is both inappropriate and inconsistent with the nature of the function of this advisory body.

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    See also:
    16 Dec 99 |  Health
    Tobacco ad ban legal, says court
    14 Oct 99 |  Health
    Tobacco giant admits health risks
    19 Nov 99 |  Medical notes
    Smoking: The health effects

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