A former tobacco salesman with inoperable lung cancer is seeking compensation from his former employer after he was given hundreds of free cigarettes as a perk of the job.
Simon Neale claimed he became a heavy smoker after he was offered around 1,200 cigarettes a month to smoke or give away while working for Rothmans, which later merged with British American Tobacco (BAT). He is now hoping to win compensation from the latter company.
We believe that giving employees huge quantities of highly addictive, powerfully cancer causing cigarettes, free of charge, and placing them in a work environment in which they are encouraged to smoke, is a flagrant breach of an employer’s duty of care.” – Richard Meeran, Leigh Day
He said he often had 30,000 cigarettes in a safe in his car boot during his four-year role at Rothmans.
Last year he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, which he claimed “had all came about” because of his employment.
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.”
Charity Action on Smoking and Health suggested that thousands of tobacco company employees were given free cigarettes while their employers “hid” evidence that smoking was heavily addictive.
Law firm Leigh Day is acting for Neale. Partner Richard Meeran said: “We believe that giving employees huge quantities of highly addictive, powerfully cancer causing cigarettes, free of charge, and placing them in a work environment in which they are encouraged to smoke, is a flagrant breach of an employer’s duty of care.”
BAT said that employees in a limited number of markets still receive free cigarettes. Group head of corporate affairs Simon Cleverly 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.
“In a small number of markets – six out of approximately 200 – this allowance continues as a result of collective bargaining agreements with local trade unions, and the products supplied comply with all applicable local regulations, including health warnings.”