LETTER : Victims of the litigious society

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The Independent Online
Sir: At long last tobacco companies, at least in the US, have been forced to recognise publicly the devastating damage to health caused by their products ("Tobacco firms to pay $360bn to settle law suits", 21 June). As a doctor I applaud this, and welcome the sweeping restrictions on tobacco promotion which have been proposed.

If the only way to achieve this was lawsuits against the tobacco companies then so be it. But as the British Medical Association leaps to urge hospital trusts in this country to engage in similar litigation on behalf of their patients, I fear the wrong message is being promulgated.

People must accept some responsibility for their own health. After all, the risks of smoking have been widely known for over 30 years now. And people haven't been forced to smoke by the tobacco giants - they have chosen to do so, knowing the risks. What will be next? Will alcoholics be encouraged to sue the breweries? Are overweight people going to sue the bakeries and the supermarkets? Should people with sunburn sue the tour operator? Let's not lose sight of personal responsibility. We are increasingly becoming a society of victims.

HUGH J THOMSON

Consultant Surgeon

Birmingham

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