Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Tuesday, 31 May 2005 14:31 UK

Ruling reignites smoking debate

Pictures of Alfred McTear
Alfred McTear had been a heavy smoker, the court heard

Widow Margaret McTear has lost her long-standing battle with Imperial Tobacco over the death of her husband.

Heavy smoker Alfred McTear died from lung cancer and Mrs McTear, from Ayrshire, held the company responsible.

However, a judge said Imperial Tobacco could not be blamed for his death, in a ruling welcomed by the company and pro-smoking campaigners.

While disappointed, anti-smoking groups said the company's position remained indefensible and called for more curbs.


I'm a bit disappointed but all the publicity over the years has highlighted the dangers of smoking and that's a victory in itself.

I hadn't built up very high hopes so I'm not very disappointed, I half expected the decision.


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.


Today's ruling is a setback for those who want to see the tobacco industry held responsible for cigarette-related deaths due to the fact that they failed to warn consumers about the dangers of their product.

Nevertheless, we now have effective health warnings on cigarette packets and have ended tobacco advertising. We are also now close to ending smoking in enclosed public places in Scotland.

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.


I'm disappointed for Mrs McTear, who has put 13 years of her life into this case.

One day someone might get legal aid for a case like this or have sufficient funds to fund it properly.

It's always very difficult for us without legal aid, whereas Imperial Tobacco have the funds and I think that's one reason we were unsuccessful.


The judgement will not set back our plans (for a ban on smoking in public places). We are absolutely sure about the health links.

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.


The judgement acknowledges that tobacco is addictive. The challenge continues; we must offer effective support to those who are addicted.

It's high time that the tobacco companies stopped blaming individual smokers for their illness.

The true cost of smoking is not financial, it is human. While families are left to pick up the pieces; tobacco company directors and shareholders pick up their profits.

The medical evidence is extremely clear - eight in every 10 deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking.


While I am disappointed by this result, I am astonished by some of the reasons given by the judge for his decision.

To state that in 1964 the public were 'well aware of the health risks associated with smoking' is unbelievable.

Lord Smith states in his ruling that Mrs McTear has failed to prove a conclusive link between smoking and lung cancer.

This flies in the face of the scientific and medical evidence that has proven the link between smoking and cancer, particularly lung cancer.

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