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Smoking Issues Must Be Carefully Considered

New ACT MP Stephen Franks is not a smoker. He says he “detests” smoking. Despite that he’s disgusted by Government talk of changing the law to sue tobacco companies.

Mr Franks says the issues raised are among the most important that Parliament’s ever dealt with in free societies.

“Retrospective law changes send the rule of law up in smoke.

“This is a basic issue. And at a less abstract level the Government is suggesting that people need not be responsible for their own choice to smoke, that someone else can be blamed.

“The sale of tobacco is legal. And since I was a child we have all known that smoking is very bad for you.

“Retrospective liability should never be a substitute for personal responsibility. Suing for deception or other dishonestly could be right, if that is what they are talking about. But if they mean to shift the consequences of past bad choices to smoke, simply because smoking is harmful – we are starting down a very sinister path.

Will serious climbing equipment manufacturers be next, because so many climbers are killed? Or chocolate makers, because bingers who are overweight die early. Or even T.V. sellers, because people get fat and sick watching T.V?

“The whole concept is offensive – always seeing those who make bad choices as victims. In a free society the consequences of informed adult choices must rest principally with those who have made them.

Stephen Franks warns that the thinking of the Government will damage people’s freedom.

“If people can make others responsible for their own bad luck or bad choices, nobody will want to offer services that carry risk.

“Take the four children drowned at school camps this year. Of course it was tragic, but just because of sad outcomes, should school camps be banned? Or those who offer to help at them, and make some mistake or misjudgment,in good faith, be held liable and hounded through the courts. Who will volunteer in that kind of society?

“In a free society, under the rule of law, people can do whatever they wish, as long as it is legal. We should deplore some legal things that are immoral – but freedom means having the right to do things that others don’t like. Even if tobacco is banned in the future, there is no legal justification for suing for activities which until now have been, and still are, lawful,” he said.

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