Are payouts to those made ill by smoking justified? Over recent years research has clearly demonstrated the harms of smoking, both in terms of reduced quality of life and death. We are now able to gauge more accurately the real health impacts of direct tobacco use and environmental tobacco smoke. Of all drugs, both legal and illegal, smoking is the biggest killer. The social and economic cost of tobacco use in Victoria is more than $3 billion per year and more than two thirds the total cost of all drugs.
Thirteen Victorians die every day from causes associated with cigarette smoking. Good morning / afternoon Mrs Birt and class, On Thursday the 11 th of April the Supreme court of Victoria awarded Melbourne grandmother Rolah Ann McCabe $700, 000 in damages after she sued one of the world's leading tobacco companies. The Victorian Supreme Court found that Australia's biggest tobacco company destroyed thousands of internal documents to deliberately subvert court processes and to deny Melbourne lung cancer patient Rolah McCabe a fair trial. Standing on the steps of the Supreme Court after her victory over British American Tobacco, Rolah McCabe pleaded with teenagers and especially girls not to smoke. Mrs McCabe is the first Australian smoker to successfully sue an international tobacco company and recently announced a donation of $70, 000 to the Cancer Council of Victoria.
The question raised by this is issue is are payouts to those made ill by smoking justified? Many non-smokers would say that everyone has the choice whether to smoke or not and that it is a voluntary action to smoke. But the nicotine in cigarettes is just like any other drug and can be as hard to quit has heroin. To understand whether or not people like Rolah McCabe deserve compensation from Tobacco companies, people who make opinions on this issue must be informed of the relevant information about the tobacco industry and each individual persons history. Mrs McCabe was born in Gippsland and started smoking the Capstan brand of cigarettes in 1962 at the age of 12, according to her statement of claim. Within four years she was smoking between 20 and 30 cigarettes a day. She then changed to the Escort brand in 1966 and smoked until 1992.
At this stage in time anti smoking legislation had not been implemented by the Australian government as the dangers and health risks of smoking were not known. In a time of ignorance Tobacco products such as cigarettes were legally advertised on T. V, radio, newspapers, posters, signs and major sporting and racing car events as large corporate sponsors. Much of the advertising at this time was very clever and highly persuasive and also directed at particular groups in society. Advertisements such as the one on your handout of the Marlboro man or tough man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, or in Mrs McCabe case Chesterfield "What your boy wants most... Letters from home, Cigarettes that satisfy." As you can see the Chesterfield brand of cigarettes would have been almost brainwashing advertising for young women when this add was brought out in the post war years.
Not to say that persuasive cigarette adverting forced Rolah McCabe to take up the habit, but it can't be denied as an influential and contributing factor. In 1962 Federal legislation allowing for health warning on tobacco packs was passed and the warnings appeared from 1973 onwards. By this time Rolah McCabe had been smoking for 11 years and her addiction to nicotine in cigarettes came hand in hand. But it was until the 80's that the Australian and state governments really did anything about smoking has a health and social issue.
In 1999 at the age of 51 Rolah was diagnosed with lung cancer. Mrs McCabe now suffers from cancer, severe shortness of breath, loss of lung function, acute pain and suffering, nausea, shock and depression, and has adverse reaction to chemotherapy. My argument is that Rolah McCabe is justified in receiving a payout from the British American Tobacco Company because when she took up cigarettes the public knew no better. It has been exposed that governments around the world as well as the tobacco companies have known for years the dangers of smoking.
Adults and teenagers who have taken up smoking since the late eighties have known consciously that smoking can affect their health and have been well informed of the dangers. This can be seen in the mandatory health warnings on cigarettes packets photocopied for you on the handout. Packets these days also display the amount of tar in each cigarette containing many chemicals, including some that cause cancer, nicotine a poisonous and addictive drug and the amount of carbon monoxide a deadly gas which reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen. Not to mention the extensive bans on smoking in all public places just recently widened by the Bracks government. So for instance, anyone in this class and in our age group should not be able to claim for payouts if they become ill from smoking. Especially since we have been informed at school in health education and exposed to anti smoking advertisements on T.
V, radio and elsewhere. Mrs McCabe won her case purely because of the cover-up by British American Tobacco, involving the deliberate destruction of sensitive documents that exposed cigarettes as a major source of lung disease, emphysema and hardening of the arteries. In my opinion she is morally right in doing so and her case touches me profoundly.