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Cancer sufferer in bid to sue tobacco giant

A former salesman is planning to sue the employer who gave him over a thousand free cigarettes a month, after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

Simon Neale, 57, was given 1,200 cigarettes every month throughout his employment with Rothmans, that he could either use himself or give away.

When he started the job in 1982, Mr Neale was only a light smoker. However, by the time he left four years later, he was a regular and heavy smoker who often had as many as 30,000 cigarettes in his car boot.

Rothmans merged with British American Tobacco (BAT) in 1999. Lawyers are now considering legal action against BAT on behalf of Mr Neale and other former employees in the same position.

Mr Neale quit smoking after he was diagnosed with lung cancer towards the end of 2018. He said: “It’s staggering looking back on it, but I was told when I joined the company that I’d be getting 1,200 free cigarettes a month.

Working at Rothmans, I went from being an occasional smoker, a social smoker, to being a heavy smoker because I had so many cigarettes given to me.

Last autumn, I was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and it knocked me for six. The worst thing was telling the children. The lung cancer has all come about from me working for Rothmans.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), commented: “Simon Neale is not the only one. Many thousands of employees were given free cigarettes and free cigarettes were also doled out to the public.

Big Tobacco promoted its products while hiding from the public, and its own employees, its own evidence that smoking was heavily addictive.

We’d encourage anyone now suffering serious smoking-related disease who took up smoking before the 1990s to come forward and tell us their story. Big Tobacco must be called to account.”

In response, Simon Cleverly, group head of corporate affairs at BAT, said: “Historically BAT employees had the option to receive a monthly allowance of cigarettes.

At all times, these products complied with all applicable laws and regulations, including the relevant health warnings.”

Lawyers working for Mr Neale said they believed giving out `highly addictive cigarettes, was a flagrant breach of an employer’s duty of care’.

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