Tobacco giant Philip Morris has warned the Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest last Monday. The tobacco company said Forrest’s planned litigation against tobacco companies isn’t the solution to reducing smoking in Australia.
“Courts around the world have rejected smoker lawsuits and class actions on the grounds that people who smoke with awareness of the risks do not have a legal claim when those risks materialise,” Philip Morris spokesman said.
“Instead of promoting costly litigation, we would encourage Forrest to focus his attention on product developments that have the potential to substantially reduce the harms associated with smoking.”
Forrest has announced recently he will be filing a legal action against tobacco firms to help raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 in Australia.
He plans to seek billions in compensation for the damage caused by smoking products through the Eliminate Cancer Initiative (ECI), under his philanthropic Minderoo Foundation.
“By the time they reach 21, they are hooked and become lifelong customers of big tobacco,” Forrest said.
“When tobacco causes many times more cost to the nation than it ever brings in revenue and creates extreme suffering before palliative care and death, there is something seriously wrong with any government in the world, particularly ours, tolerating it,” he said.
According to AAP, Forrest’s proposal comes ahead of a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments in Canberra this week. Cancer Council CEO Sanchia Aranda has offered cautious support for his idea.
“We know that if you can get people to delay starting smoking, then they’re less likely to start at all. So age is very important,” Prof Aranda said.
Professor Aranda is yet to see any modelling from Forrest’s Eliminate Cancer Initiative to show it will work, but believes it could be a first step towards cementing Australia’s first smoke-free generation by imposing life-long bans on the sale of tobacco products to children born after a certain date.
Prof Aranda said the smoking rate among 14 to 18-year-olds is at an all time low, with 80 per cent of young Australians in that age group having never smoked.
One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young both backed Forrest’s push, saying new and creative thinking is needed to stop Australians dying from smoking-related diseases.