€17.45bn award - Death knell for tobacco?

The ground-breaking order from a Florida court that tobacco giant RJ Reynolds, America’s second largest cigarette company, pay a smoker’s widow €17.45bn may prove to be a nail in the coffin for the industry, one that depends on its customers’ self-destructive addiction to nicotine.

The industry is certain to appeal the exemplary award but it shows that, in the West at least, the tobacco industry, like its customers, is living on borrowed time. The gigantic scale of the award is utterly unsustainable even by a business allowed to sell an addictive drug. Hopefully other countries, especially in the developing world, will be as assertive impose sanctions before the toll on public health become very great.

Other industries — sugar, alcohol, and fat producers especially — should recognise that this health-focussed ruling may, in time, have implications for them too.


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