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Update: Dutch Criminal Case Against Tobacco Industry

In September 2016, lawyer Benedicte Ficq filed a criminal case with the Dutch Public Prosecutor, alleging that four tobacco manufacturers were guilty of attempted murder, manslaughter, premeditated attempts to cause grievous bodily harm, premeditated attempts to cause damage to health and fraud.

Over the course of the next two years, this case gained incredible momentum, with over 31,000 individuals signing on in support. Organizations, including the Dutch Cancer Society, also joined the case. The social movement behind the case was amazing. A study in May 2018, conducted by Kantar Public and commissioned by the Dutch Cancer Society, found that a large majority (61%) of the Dutch population think it is right that cigarette manufacturers have been called to account.

Despite that support, the Dutch Prosecutor declined to prosecute, and our colleagues appealed.

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals in the Netherlands has decided not to require the Dutch Prosecutor to take criminal action against the industry. You can read more about that decision in a joint statement from ASH and the Dutch Cancer Society, below.

For several years, ASH has been involved in efforts to bring criminal charges against the tobacco industry in courts around the world, and we are proud to be partners and supporters of the Dutch groups and their case. While unfortunately the case has reached its end in the Netherlands, we are confident that our combined efforts will result in a criminal case against the tobacco industry in another country. Congratulations to our Dutch colleagues on a fantastic and historic first attempt!

Declaration from Dutch Court in the criminal case against Tobacco Industry (English )

At the beginning of December, the Dutch Court in The Hague declared our complaint in the so-called Article 12 proceedings against the tobacco industry unfounded.

We have translated the complete decision of the Court of Appeals in the case. We hope that this will provide you with useful insights, especially on what grounds our appeal was denied and some important statements made by the Court.

Although the road towards a criminal case in the Netherlands seems to end here for the time being, a huge social movement has started up, both nationally and internationally. A societal change starts with awareness that what we use to deem normal is not. Change also needs time. We are very happy to hand over the baton to advocates in other countries who are interested in pursuing criminal cases in their jurisdictions. Please use this document wherever you see opportunities in your own country, to prepare similar legal steps. We trust that with this document and our invitation to present our case and share our experience, that your organizations can have a successful outcome. We encourage you to take action.

Despite the setback in the Hague, there is a growing momentum for a criminal case against the tobacco industry. Currently, our colleagues in France are waiting for their court to decide whether to bring a criminal case, and numerous advocates in other countries are working to open cases.Are you motivated and willing to take actions? Please contact our partners at Action on Smoking and Health US. ASH has developed many legal resources that can assist in bringing a case. Dutch Cancer and ASH would be thrilled to support you in efforts to bring criminal charges against the tobacco industry. We are confident that it is only a matter of time before this case is a success.

  • Kelsey (ASH) and Guy (Dutch Cancer Society)