Limited aid for smokers

LIMITED legal aid certificates have been granted to 200 smokers who are taking part in a multi-party action against tobacco manufacturers.

The Legal Aid Board last week announced it would reverse an earlier decision to deny the smokers legal aid after an independent area committee of solicitors and barristers received new information and submissions from lawyers acting for the smokers.

The decision marks the first time legal aid has been granted to support a significant number of claims of this type.

The claimants are bringing proceedings against tobacco companies including Phillip Morris, British American Tobacco, Rothmans, Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco.

They allege they have suffered illnesses such as lung cancer and Buerger's Disease as a result of the tobacco companies' failure to reduce or eliminate the harmful contents of cigarettes and to give adequate warnings on the dangers of smoking.

The LAB will now invite tenders from solicitors involved in the action – Leigh, Day & Co, Bindman & Partners, and Freeth Cartwright Hunt Dickins – before awarding the legal aid contract.

Leigh, Day & Co solicitor Charlie Hopkins says the three firms, which will put in a joint tender for the work later this month, expect to hear the result of the bidding process in April.