Do cigarettes cause cancer? I'm not sure, says boss of sued tobacco firm

Paul Kelbie,Scotland Correspondent
Wednesday 12 November 2003 01:00

The head of Britain's biggest tobacco company admitted yesterday that there was no such thing as a safe cigarette, but said he could not be sure smoking was linked to lung cancer.

Gareth Davis, 53, the chief executive of Imperial Tobacco, was giving evidence at the Court of Session in Edinburgh where Margaret McTear, of Beith, Ayrshire, is suing his company over the death of her husband, Alfred, who died of lung cancer in 1993 aged 48, after smoking up to 60 cigarettes a day since 1964.

His wife wants £500,000 compensation from Imperial Tobacco. She claims her husband became addicted to smoking before health warnings appeared on packets.

Mr Davisread out the warnings on four packets of cigarettes made by Imperial Tobacco. Asked by Mrs McTear's counsel, Colin McEachran QC, if Imperial Tobacco accepted the medical consensus that smoking causes lung cancer, he replied: "I think the answer is we don't know; it may do, but we don't know."

Mr Davis agreed that smokers were far more likely than non-smokers to develop diseases such as lung cancer, and that there was no such thing as a safe cigarette.

Mr McEachran cited a preface written by the Prime Minister in a government White Paper on tobacco, which said: "In Britain today more than 120,000 people are going to die over the next year from illnesses related to smoking."

The case, before Lord Nimmo Smith, is expected to last another 15 weeks.

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