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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 October, 2003, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Cancer victim blamed advertising
Alf McTear
Mr McTear died from lung cancer in 1993
A landmark damages claim against the tobacco industry has heard that a man who died from lung cancer blamed "glamorous" cigarette advertising for his 60-a-day habit.

The claim follows his widow's 10-year legal battle to put her case against one of the world's largest tobacco companies.

Alf McTear took action against Imperial Tobacco in 1993, arguing that he had not been warned about the dangers of smoking.

He died, aged 48, from lung cancer a week after giving evidence, but his fight is now being continued by his wife Margaret.

Mrs McTear is seeking 500,000 damages in the first claim of its kind in the UK.

On Tuesday the Court of Session in Edinburgh heard evidence given by Mr McTear in the weeks before his death.

'No warnings'

Barry Divers, a member of Mrs McTear's legal team, read out a transcript of the evidence which had been given in the front room of Mr McTear's Ayrshire home.

Mr McTear said there had never been any health warnings on the packets of John Player cigarettes he smoked.

He said there was no warning that cigarettes could be addictive and at the height of his smoking he got through 60 cigarettes a day.

The court also heard that Mr McTear viewed advertising to make smoking out to be "glamorous".

Margaret McTear
I always said I was determined to see it through to the end for Alf 's sake
Margaret McTear
He said that in 1964 he had been smoking only 10 a day but when he was diagnosed with cancer he was smoking 60 a day.

The court heard that he said: "God forgive me but I enjoyed it. I still want to smoke even though I've got all this happening to me."

Another member of Mrs McTear's team, Colin McEachran QC, asked her why her husband had begun the court case.

"Basically, I think, to get back at the tobacco companies and to get it across to young people that smoking is dangerous," she replied.

The court heard how Mr McTear was diagnosed with cancer after his wife persuaded him to go to his GP in 1992.

He went through months of pain and breathlessness, she said, and died the night he was taken into a local hospice.

US damages

"What were you told by the doctors was the cause of that lung cancer?" asked Mr McEachran. "Smoking," replied Mrs McTear.

The court was also told that Mr McTear was a convicted criminal who had been sent to prison 11 times.

Between 1959 and 1991 he had 17 jobs, including time in the army in the early 1960s before being discharged.

A number of high-profile cases have recently gone through courts in the United States, with major tobacco companies ordered to pay multi-million dollar damages.

But this is the first case of a similar nature in the UK.

Mrs McTear's lawyer, Cameron Fyfe, said: "Any manufacturer who manufactures a product for a consumer should warn that consumer if there are dangers attached to it.

"We are saying that Imperial Tobacco knew about the dangers attached to smoking in the 1960s but did not warn their consumers, did not warn Alf McTear.

"Had he known, he would not have started."

Defence 'robust'

Speaking to BBC Scotland in 1993, Alf McTear said: "I've only got a short time left and my family will be carrying on where I left off.

"At least they will have my testimony when the time comes, my words will be there in black and white... I'll have my say."

Mrs McTear, from Beith, Ayrshire, said: "I always said I was determined to see it through to the end for Alf 's sake."

One factor going against Mrs McTear is that she has been refused legal aid several times and may struggle to pay costs.

Mr Fyfe said his firm has worked on the case since 1993 on a "no win, no fee basis".

Imperial Tobacco has described its defence as "robust."

'Educating people'

The firm is expected to stress that there has been a long-standing awareness of the dangers of smoking.

It is also expected to say that Mr McTear chose to smoke after the warnings were introduced and that smokers can quit.

But if Imperial Tobacco loses the case, it could open the door to hundreds of similar actions.

Ian Gibson, of Macmillan Cancer Relief for Scotland, claimed that Imperial Tobacco's response was evidence of the tobacco industry's lies.

He said: "For years the tobacco industry tried to deny that their product was causing thousands of deaths around the world every day.

"Whilst organisations such as Macmillian try to bring down our lung cancer rates by educating people about the causes and symptoms, Imperial Tobacco's cynical denial of the clearly proved link between smoking and lung cancer has shown yet again that the tobacco industry put profits before lives."

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Cigarettes used to have a completely different image"

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