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Sunday 21 September 2014

Irish anti-smoking campaigners' joy at €17bn US judgment

Eilish O'Regan and Claire McCormack

Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30

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Professor Luke Clancy
Professor Luke Clancy

A LANDMARK decision to award the widow of a lung cancer victim more than €17bn in compensation, could have repercussions for tobacco companies here.

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A Florida jury awarded the widow of a chain smoker record punitive damages against America's second-biggest cigarette maker, RJ Reynolds.

Anti-smoking campaigners here welcomed the award, and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly vowed to push ahead with plans to introduce plain packaging on tobacco products here.

"This is a landmark decision in the United States," he said. "According to the lawyers for the plaintiffs, the tobacco firms are putting the lives of innocent people in jeopardy by not properly informing them of the health hazards.

"The Irish Government is determined that we will introduce plain packaging in an effort to make sure that citizens recognise the very grave dangers of smoking tobacco.

"I am determined that we will act to try and prevent children from ever starting to smoke in the first place."

Professor Luke Clancy, director general of the Tobacco Research Institute Ireland, was pleased with the outcome – but said getting the money may be harder than getting the award.

"Big tobacco has a history of challenging such awards, using all their political might and money to challenge such verdicts and amounts," he warned.

He hoped the decision will stimulate the Government and individuals not to be afraid of taking on the industry.

"The Irish State should do like the individuals in America did in the RJ Reynolds case, where a class action was taken against the industry to recover all the money lost in treating the disease and looking after people," he said.

Meanwhile the subtle psychology behind the colour of cigarette packets has been revealed – thanks to research by the tobacco industry. Insider research carried out by tobacco companies matched colours to character traits, revealing the subliminal tricks used to entice smokers.

Cigarette firms conduct market research on colours, and they have it distilled down to a fine science, said a Department of Health report.

The report was commissioned in advance of the proposed introduction of plain cigarette packaging, which it is hoped will negate much of the perceived 'glamour' in smoking.

The report reveals how tobacco firms use red packages and logos to convey excitement, strength, wealth and power.

Author Dr David Hammond of the University of Waterloo, Canada, said: "Silver and gold colours can be used to convey status and prestige, particularly for 'premium' brands."

The report said that packets with pastel colours are associated with freshness, innocence, and relaxation.

The report said the industry believes the packaging is even more important in countries like Ireland where smoking rates are falling. Tobacco firms say they will fight the plain packaging proposal.

Irish Independent

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