Smoking gun


The latest battle in the tobacco wars broke out last week, as lawyers representing up to 1 million sick Florida smokers opened their case in a Miami court. This is the first “class action” by smokers against the tobacco industry in the US, but the plaintiffs’ lawyers have an impressive track record. Last year, they won $350 million for passive smokers. The comprehensive http://tobacco.org will keep you up to date. If you find legal fights heavy going, http://www.ash.org.uk may provide the antidote. The website of the pressure group Action on Smoking and Health features a new interactive game called “Tobacco Explored”. Among other tasks, you are asked to predict causes of death for a group of 1000 smokers—see if you can better Netropolitan’s score of 97 “misplaced” deaths. By avoiding humourless preaching, the game makes some effective points: once you see that 78 per cent of revenues from a Briton’s lifetime cigarette consumption goes in tax, it’s clear why governments have a hard job kicking the tobacco habit. The ASH site also links to leading websites on tobacco throughout the world. Other lively sites that ASH doesn’t link to directly include http://www.health.su.oz.au/tobacco/index.html, which documents anti-tobacco activism in Australia, and http://tobacco.arizona.edu, run by the Arizona Program for Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Strangely, amid the welter of anti-tobacco postings, it’s hard to find the online voice of the tobacco industry. Philip Morris, the world’s biggest tobacco company, keeps a particularly low Web profile. The website of its competitor Brown and Williamson (http://www.bw.com) looks very professional, but is not as timely as those run by the anti-tobacco lobby. As New Scientist went to press, Brown and Williamson’s “courthouse” section still contained no mention of the Florida lawsuit. More on these topics:
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