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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Court rejects tobacco test case
Alf McTear
Alfred McTear, who died in March 1993
A widow whose husband died of lung cancer has lost her landmark court battle against the cigarette giant Imperial Tobacco.

Alfred McTear, who smoked 60 a day, died of lung cancer at the age of 48.

His widow Margaret, from Beith in Ayrshire, sued the firm for 500,000 in the first case of its kind in Britain.

A judge rejected claims that Mr McTear was unaware of the risks when he began smoking and that advertising was a big factor in his decision to smoke.

Mrs McTear, 60, had told the Court of Session in Edinburgh that her husband became addicted to smoking before health warnings appeared on cigarette packets.

The firm had denied it was to blame. It said it was "pleased but not surprised" at the outcome of the case.

Mrs McTear has battled for more than 10 years with Imperial Tobacco, one of the world's largest tobacco manufacturers and makers of John Player, which was her husband's favourite brand.

In delivering his judgement, judge Lord Nimmo Smith said Mrs McTear's case had failed on every count.

He said her husband knew what he was doing when he started smoking in about 1964 and had smoked "roll-ups" as well as cigarettes made by Imperial Tobacco.

While it was not in dispute that Mr McTear died of lung cancer, there was no proof that Imperial Tobacco's product had caused the cancer which killed him, the judge said.

Margaret McTear
I half expected the decision so I am not really very disappointed about it. I think I have highlighted the dangers of smoking
Margaret McTear

Mr McTear had blamed glamorous advertising for the start of his habit, which increased to 60-a-day before he was told he had a fatal tumour.

However, Lord Nimmo Smith said: "I am satisfied that advertising had nothing to do with his reasons for starting to smoke.

"He started to smoke because it was socially acceptable and most young people started smoking as part of becoming adults."

As for public awareness of the potential risks from smoking, Lord Nimmo Smith said he was satisfied that by 1964 the general public in the UK were "well aware of the health risks associated with smoking."

'Think twice'

He said: "I am also satisfied that Mr McTear was aware, in common with the general public, well before 1971 of the publicity about the health risks associated with smoking, and in particular the risk of lung cancer."

The judge said he accepted that Mr McTear found it difficult to give up smoking but he did not agree it could be argued that smoking was more addictive than cocaine.

Shares in Imperial Tobacco rose by about 2% following publication of the judgement, which, by coincidence, was delivered on "World No Tobacco Day".

We have never lost or settled any tobacco litigation and will continue to defend ourselves robustly against any further speculative claims
Imperial Tobacco

In response to the judgment, the company said: "We are pleased but not surprised at the judge's decision to dismiss the McTear claim.

"We regret that we have had to defend ourselves against what we always believed to be a speculative claim, brought by a claimant who had been refused legal aid on four separate occasions.

"We have never lost or settled any tobacco litigation and will continue to defend ourselves robustly against any further speculative claims."

'Don't smoke' message

After hearing the ruling, Mrs McTear said: "I am disappointed because it means that ordinary people will think twice about suing for damages.

"I half expected the decision so I am not really very disappointed about it. I think I have highlighted the dangers of smoking."

Asked if she had a message on "World No Tobacco Day" she said: "Everyone should know that it does cause lung cancer and 'don't smoke'."

Mrs McTear did not receive legal aid to bring her case to court. Her legal team was operating on a "no win, no fee" basis.

Imperial Tobacco must accept that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and continues to kill millions of people around the world
Maureen Moore
Ash Scotland

Her solicitor Cameron Fyfe added: "We've done 15 years' work with no fee, which is a risk you take."

He said he had yet to read the entire document but added that the judge's statement saying there was no evidence to satisfy a link between smoking and lung cancer, and his view that Mr McTear should have accepted the risks, seemed "paradoxical".

Scottish Health Minister Andy Kerr said the ruling would have no impact on the Scottish Executive's plans to introduce a ban on smoking in public places next year.

He said: "The judgement will not set back our plans. We are absolutely sure about the health links.

Ash Scotland campaign
Ash Scotland is promoting smoke-free areas

"We've done our own studies, we've looked at international studies, we've listened to the World Health Organisation on these matters. Intuitively, we all know smoking's bad for you."

Maureen Moore, chief executive of anti-smoking organisation Ash Scotland, branded the judgement a "disappointment" but said she was encouraged by measures such as the planned ban on smoking in public places.

She said: "Today we call on Imperial Tobacco to stop denying what the rest of the world accepts. Imperial Tobacco must accept that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and continues to kill millions of people around the world."

Meanwhile, Ash Scotland launched a postcard campaign to support smoke-free enclosed public places.

Campaigners gathered outside the Scottish Parliament to drive home the message on World No Tobacco Day.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why it was a landmark claim for damages




SEE ALSO:
Tobacco court battle: Your views
31 May 05 |  Have Your Say
Judge considers tobacco ruling
20 Feb 04 |  Scotland
No such thing as 'safe cigarettes'
11 Nov 03 |  Scotland
Cancer claim man 'a violent drunk'
08 Oct 03 |  Scotland
Cancer victim blamed advertising
07 Oct 03 |  Scotland


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