Cancer charity KWF Kankerbestrijding has made a formal complaint against the big four tobacco companies, accusing them of grievous bodily harm and fraud.
The organisation says the tobacco firms have lied to smokers about the damaging side effects of their addiction, particularly by using cigarettes that give false readings in test results through the use of tiny ventilation holes in filters.
Cigarette smoke is tested in laboratories for tar and nicotine, but the results are distorted by the use of holes. These are closed up by the mouth and fingers when people smoke, but left open during the testing process. This means people are inhaling up to 2.5 times more chemicals than lab reports show.
The KWF says cigarette firms have done this deliberately to mislead the tests. The organisation is now joining forces with a law suit brought by smoker Anne Marie van Veen.
‘People are taking in more dangerous substances than we realised,’ director Michiel Rudolphie told the AD. ‘We knew about the holes but I have never really thought about the legal options… as an organisation that focuses on prevention, I feel we really must join this court case.’
Some 20,000 people die because of the effects of smoking in the Netherlands every year, of which 12,000 have some form of smoking-related cancer.
Van Veen’s lawyer Bénédicte Ficq says the KWF support is ‘unbelievably important.’ The tobacco industry does all it can to get people addicted, he said.
Industry spokesman directeur Jan Hein Sträter told the AD tobacco firms are not concerned by the threat and that producers are doing nothing wrong. ‘This would appear to be all about publicity,’ he said.
The public prosecution department is set to announce in the next few weeks whether to proceed with a prosecution, the AD said.