Doctors aim to put tobacco firms in dock

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The Independent Online
DOCTORS' LEADERS are to compile a dossier of evidence on the harmful effects of smoking in an attempt to bring criminal charges of corporate manslaughter against the tobacco industry. The dossier will be given to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether to take action.

The move would be the first attempt in the world to put the tobacco industry on trial for causing the deaths of millions of smokers through supplying a "deadly" substance.

The British Medical Association annual conference of public health doctors voted overwhelming to set up a working party to compile the report.

Doctor Noel Olsen, a public health physician in Devon, who proposed the motion, said it would be striking a blow against the industry by charging tobacco companies with "knowingly" supplying a substance which was likely to lead to premature death.

Doctor Olsen said that until now the medical profession had attempted to control the marketing of tobacco by calling for a total ban on advertising in the UK. But this had been resisted so far by the Government, even though there was evidence from other countries that a ban could lead to a fall in the number of teenagers starting to smoke.

"We feel the time has now come when we should look at the possibility of bringing corporate manslaughter charges against the tobacco industry for causing the deaths of thousands of people who smoke, said Dr Olsen.