Tobacco Smoking Injury Dangers
Tobacco and cigarette manufacturers warn consumers about the dangers of smoking, but smokers continue using the products. Despite American tobacco companies providing warnings, they have some level of liability when consumers who use cigarettes get sick or die. This holds even though most smokers know about the harmful effects of using tobacco products.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco products and cigarette smoking kill more than 8 million people every year. This includes approximately 1.3 million non-smokers who die as a result of second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is tobacco smoke exhaled by smokers and inhaled involuntarily or passively by other people.
Tobacco-related illnesses such as lung cancer, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis cost hundreds of billions of dollars each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking-related illness in the United States results in over $200 billion in direct healthcare costs for adults.
In the U.S., an estimated one of every five deaths is smoking-related. Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.
Just How Dangerous Is Cigarette Smoking?
Smoking and chewing tobacco is the most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S. Smoking is so dangerous that federal law has labeling requirements for cigarette packaging.
Federal law requires cigarette manufacturers to place warnings on every package of cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.
Legally, these warnings must be clear and direct. They must educate about the dangers of smoking and tobacco products. The labeling requirements require companies to include the following language and information:
- Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy.
- Smoking by pregnant women may result in fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight.
- Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide.
- Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the mouth and throat, even if you do not inhale.
- Tobacco smoke increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease, even in non-smokers.
- Smokeless tobacco may cause gum disease and tooth loss.
- Smokeless tobacco may cause mouth cancer.
With the history of tobacco litigation against "Big Tobacco," it is nearly impossible for a pack of cigarettes or other smoking products to appear on the shelves without these warnings. Major tobacco companies have heard the message on labeling requirements loud and clear.
Smoking Deaths and Injuries: The Numbers
Most smokers and non-smokers are familiar with the dangers of cigarettes. But, it is worth discussing these dangers briefly here.
- Lung cancer
- Cancer of the larynx
- Esophageal cancer
- Mouth and throat cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Kidney cancer
Clinical studies of the health risks of tobacco also show:
- Almost 90% of all people who die from lung cancer smoked at some point in their lives
- 1.9 million people (worldwide) die each year from congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease caused by cigarette smoking
- More than 75% of all people who die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were smokers
The statistics are grim. Cigarettes are inherently dangerous products. So, courts hold cigarette manufacturers liable for many of these smoking-related deaths and illnesses.
Legal Responsibility of Big Tobacco
It would be misleading to imply that all plaintiffs who sue tobacco companies win. It's challenging to prevail in a case against Big Tobacco. With the explicit warnings on cigarettes and tobacco products, it is hard for a plaintiff to argue that they were unaware of the dangers of smoking.
This doesn't mean tobacco manufacturers are off the hook entirely. You can still sue Big Tobacco for damages. It depends on the nature and extent of your injuries and whether you can prove causation or product defects. Imposing liability also depends on the evidence you have showing liability based on a particular legal theory. These legal theories may include allegations of a defective product or design defects.
Most people who sue tobacco companies today do so over newer products, such as e-cigarettes or vapes. Many other plaintiffs are people who worked for cigarette manufacturers or in smoke-filled environments such as casinos or bars.
Should You Sue a Cigarette Manufacturer?
If you sue a cigarette manufacturer, you'll fight an uphill battle. The judge may dismiss your case if the defendant can prove that they followed the Surgeon General's warnings and federal regulations.
Some of the bases on which plaintiffs sue tobacco companies today include:
- Illness or injury caused by smoking or other tobacco product
- The wrongful death of a loved one from smoking or second-hand smoke
- Fraud or violation of consumer protection laws
- Unethical and illegal advertising tactics
- Death or illness resulting from second-hand smoke
- Injuries or death due to dangerous working conditions
It's best to meet with a product liability attorney before you decide whether to file a product liability case. Your lawyer will review your claim and let you know how best to proceed.
Costs of Cigarette Smoking Illnesses and Injuries
It is no secret that cigarettes are dangerous. Experts confirmed this over 30 years ago when five big tobacco companies gave the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a list of nearly 600 cigarette additives used in manufacturing. The FDA states that tobacco products have a mix of over 7,000 chemicals.
Experts determined that cigarette smoke contained 43 known carcinogens. This was the case for both smokers and non-smokers near cigarette smoke. Furthermore, some ingredients in cigarettes, like nicotine, are addictive. Addictive chemicals make it hard to quit smoking.
Many long-time smokers claim that tobacco companies misled them into thinking that cigarettes were safe. For people who smoked before the government passed regulations on tobacco products, this may be the case.
President Barack Obama passed a new federal law in 2009 called the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act." This law required tobacco companies to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a detailed list of all ingredients in their tobacco products. This information would become available to the public as well.
There are laws, manufacturer disclaimers, and strict rules on product warnings. This makes it difficult to prevail in cigarette-related product liability lawsuits today. In most cases, tobacco industry defendants argue that the plaintiff knew the risks of the products and chose to use them anyway.
Smoking on the Job and Workers Compensation
If you are a non-smoker and got sick because of tobacco smoke at work, you can file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Every state has worker's compensation laws governing this situation. For example, if you file a qualifying claim in Florida, you can get medical care and financial benefits for up to 104 weeks.
An increasing number of employees receive workers' compensation benefits. To get benefits, the employee must prove that environmental tobacco smoke in their workplace caused medical problems. The employee may also meet the burden of proof by showing that environmental tobacco smoke in their workplace worsened a pre-existing medical condition.
Smoking Injuries and Your Legal Rights
If you're reading this article, you probably want to know your rights or the rights of a loved one. You also want to know what steps you should take to hold the cigarette manufacturers accountable.
The truth is that if you or a loved one are experiencing smoking-related injuries, you may get significant compensation. When your attorney files your tobacco product liability lawsuit, they'll demand that the defendant pay you damages.
The types of damages you demand may include some or all the following.
Your lawyer can demand compensation for current and future medical expenses. This includes the following damages:
- Ambulance rides
- Prescription medications
You can demand damages for any time you've missed from work. You can also demand compensation for any lost future income. For example, if you can no longer do the same kind of work due to your illness, you may be able to demand special compensation for the difference in income.
Pain and Suffering
Most plaintiffs in tobacco lawsuits demand compensation for pain and suffering. This entails any physical pain you experience. It also includes the mental and emotional anguish caused by your injuries.
A judge rarely awards punitive damages in this type of case. They only do so when they want to punish the defendant. If your attorney can prove that the product manufacturer intentionally hid information, you may convince a judge to award you these special damages.
Regardless of the damages you demand from the defendant, there's a strong likelihood that your case will settle out of court. Most cases do. Not only does it make more sense for both parties, but it's important for people with a smoking-related illness to resolve their cases quickly. Medical bills pile up. Plus, if you have a terminal diagnosis, you'll want to settle your case as soon as possible.
Getting Legal Help for Tobacco-Related Injuries
Smokers and their families have filed scores of product liability, wrongful death, and personal injury lawsuits against cigarette makers over the years. If you or a loved one suffered an illness or injury from smoking cigarettes, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Along with seeking the best medical care, it's also wise to meet with an experienced product liability attorney to discuss your legal options.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.