Family doctors and medical specialists are lending financial support to the prosecution of four tobacco companies in what will be the first lawsuit of its kind in Europe, the Volkskrant writes.
The Dutch Journal of Medicine NTvG , which has a membership of over 250 doctors, has decided to earmark ‘several hundreds of thousands of euros’ to support the case which is being brought by 1,300 (ex) smokers suffering from smoking-related illnesses.
According to Willem Mali, professor of radiology at UMC Utrecht, doctors should do more than simply supporting anti-smoking policies, writing reports and informing their patients about the consequences of smoking. ‘Doctors should become activists and really go for it,’ he told the paper.
The case is not about compensation but about prosecuting tobacco companies for ‘wilfully producing addictive cigarettes and prejudicing people’s health with premeditation’, the paper writes.
In the Netherlands 20,000 people die every year from smoking-related illnesses. A quarter of the population smokes. In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom the number is much lower, which Mali blames on the less than stringent anti-smoking policy in this country.
NTvG editor Yolanda van der Graaf feels doctors have the knowledge and authority to persuade politicians to adopt more restrictive measures. ‘All we talk about now is new, more expensive medicines against lung cancer which help make care unaffordable and only prolong life by a couple of months. But if no one smoked we wouldn’t have to have this debate at all,’ Van der Graaf told the paper.
The Dutch association of tobacco producers VNK commented that it ‘remains confident that the sale of a legal product will not be labelled as a crime.’