Public Health Practice in Australia: The Organised Effort

By Vivian Lin; James Smith et al. | Go to book overview

5

Explaining differences and determinants:
Environment, society and behaviour

Challenge

In October 2001 Rolah McCabe began proceedings for compensatory and exemplary damages negligence against British American Tobacco (BAT) in the Victorian Supreme Court. Her claim against BAT was based on several points: that she had been addicted to cigarettes manufactured by BAT since the age of twelve, and as a result had contracted lung cancer; that BAT knew that cigarettes were addictive and dangerous to health; that BAT's advertising targeted children to become consumers; that BAT took no reasonable steps to reduce either the health risks or the addictive nature of cigarettes; and that BAT has publicly decried research showing the health dangers of smoking (Hammond 2004).

Justice Eames awarded Rolah McCabe $700 000 in damages because BAT had 'subverted' the discovery process by wilfully destroying documents that denied the plaintiff a fair trial. Following Rolah McCabe's death, BAT successfully appealed against the decision. A subsequent request for special leave to appeal to the High Court by her surviving family was rejected (Liberman 2002).

What types of evidence need to be presented to explain the causes of smoking addiction or lung cancer? What evidence is needed to establish who is responsible and to what extent they are responsible, especially where the development of a condition or disease involves personal behaviour? If the causative factors are complex and can be apportioned in numerous ways, how can people be educated about the actions that they could and should undertake for themselves as individuals—and for society?

-80-

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