Criminal case against the tobacco industry

An attempt to prosecute the tobacco industry

Criminal case against the tobacco industry

In September 2016, Dutch lawyer Bénédicte Ficq filed a criminal complaint against the tobacco industry on behalf of two lung patients and the Youth Smoking Prevention Foundation. This article provides an overview of the lead-up to the case and subsequent developments.

‘I cannot conduct this alone and, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll be around next year. But I’m doing it for my children and hope that everybody will help me.’ Those were the words of Anne Marie van Veen, at the time a 43-year-old mother of 4 children and a lung cancer patient, when she appeared in the RTL Late Night television programme on 28 April 2016. Together with criminal lawyer Bénédicte Ficq, she was there to announce that she was instigating criminal proceedings against the tobacco industry for attempted murder, manslaughter and grievous bodily harm. 

Rigged cigarette

The case was submitted to the Public Prosecution Service on September 29, 2016. A unique case: for first time worldwide, the tobacco industry was criminally charged. The charges involved attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault and forgery against an industry that knowingly makes its cancer-causing tobacco products extremely addictive. In addition, cigarettes have been modified in such a way that the official measuring method for the content of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes is manipulated. As a result, smokers ingest much more toxins than the legal maximum amounts. One can rightly speak of the 'rigged cigarette'.

Sick of Smoking

To generate as much public support as possible, a grassroots movement called Sick of Smoking was formed. Ultimately, more than 30,000 people endorsed the campaign to hold the tobacco industry to account. Gradually, more and more organizations joined the indictment, including hospitals, medical professional organizations, KWF Dutch Cancer Society and the municipality of Amsterdam.

No prosecution, but lots of publicity

After careful consideration, the Public Prosecution saw no possibility to prosecute. The plaintiffs disagreed and decided to ask the judge to order the Public Prosecution Service to prosecute the tobacco industry after all. In the end, however, also the court saw no ground for this. The judge said in so many words that the arguments of the plaintiffs were correct, but that the solution should be sought in the political field.

Nevertheless, this lawsuit has generated a lot of publicity, also internationally, and contributed enormously to the awareness that smoking is an addiction and not a free choice of people. The malicious practices of the tobacco industry and the principles of the rigged cigarette have also been very emphatically brought to the fore by this case.


Lia Breed | additives | tobacco addiction | criminal case | tobacco industry | rigged cigarette | TNCO | Jeffrey Wigand | Anne Marie van Veen | Bénédicte Ficq

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