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           Much case law exists on prosecuting people whose actions as a "natural and probable consequence" cause death of others. The applicable legal principles include deaths from toxic chemicals (e.g. carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, etc.) such as those emitted from cigarettes.

In late June 2000, an Italian prosecutor initated an investigation into the death of a bank worker. The purpose is to apply the law as to whether her employer and colleagues should be tried for her manslaughter. This is the latest in a long line of cases to uphold case law on the "right to fresh and pure air" on the job. Thank you.

The death had occurred about ten months earlier, around August 1999. A 35-year-old woman collapsed at her work-site desk in a Milan bank. Tobacco's toxic chemicals which include lung-injuring substances had impaired her breathing and caused it to cease.

Her family observes that the employer, the Milan bank, was aware of the circumstances. Nonetheless, the family reports that the employer hired smokers despite the known danger that they pose. The employer put her in a badly ventilated room, lacking the right to fresh and pure air, and surrounded by persistent smokers, spewing toxic chemicals. Her repeated requests for aid were ignored.

The prosecutor decided that those executives who allowed the continued smoking, spewing poisons into the air, around her should be charged with her death. The prosecutor is to be commended for taking this step towards enforcing the right of nonsmokers to not be killed on the job.

Thereafter, a conviction of two culpable executives resulted.

Related British Newspaper Article

           Cigarettes are well-established as having a record of being dangerous in terms of both ingredients and emissions:

acetaldehyde (1.4+ mg)arsenic (500+ ng)
benzo(a)pyrene (.1+ ng) cadmium (1,300+ ng)
crotonaldehyde (.2+ µg)chromium (1,000+ ng)
ethylcarbamate 310+ ng)formaldehyde (1.6+ µg)
hydrazine (14+ng)
lead (8+ µg)
nickel (2,000+ ng) radioactive polonium (.2+ Pci)

"Speed Limit"
acetaldehyde 3,200 ppm 200.0 ppm
acrolein 150 ppm 0.5 ppm
ammonia 300 ppm 150.0 ppm
carbon monoxide 42,000 ppm 100.0 ppm
formaldehyde 30 ppm 5.0 ppm
hydrogen cyanide 1,600 ppm 10.0 ppm
hydrogen sulfide 40 ppm 20.0 ppm
methyl chloride 1,200 ppm 100.0 ppm
nitrogen dioxide 250 ppm 5.0 ppm




"Alternative Models for Controlling Smoking Among Adolescents," 87 Am J Pub Health 869-870 (May 1997) discusses prevention of smoking by doing as done for all other people: a law providing that only safe products be manufactured, given away, and sold.

           Judicial notice of cigarettes' "inherent" deleteriousness was taken over a century ago pursuant to an 1897 Tennessee law, in Austin v State, 101 Tenn 563; 566-7; 48 SW 305, 306; 70 Am St Rep 703 (1898) affirmed 179 US 343, 21 S Ct 232; 45 L Ed 224 (1900).

See also Commonwealth v Hughes, 468 Pa 502; 364 A2d 306 (8 Oct 1976) (a criminal prosecution-of-a-smoker case). Smoker Hughes' smoking on the job started a fire. This fire was at a chemical factory. Firemen trying to put out the fire were killed on the job in the process of putting out the smoker-caused fire. The smoker was arrested for manslaughter in the two deaths. He appealed all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but lost. Smokers—contrary to lay beliefs—do not have a right to start fires that kill people.

Shortly there was another similar case, Gladieux Food Services, Inc and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 70 Lab Arb 544 (1 March 1978). In that case, the arbitrator identified smoking in that context, in murder terms.

Many precedents show that the Italian prosecutor is right to look into the matter. Criminal charges are foreseeably appropriate. Involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke is not a "choice" as per legal definitions. Nonsmoker deaths are "natural and probable consequences," so in law are "intentional" and "premeditated."

People cannot "consent" to being harmed. In law, people cannot generally "consent" to others causing them harm! Most "consent" has no legal standing (especially re youths and in fraud cases) so constitutes no defense for the accused. An exhaustive amount of case law exists on this very point. See "Assault and Battery: Consent as Defense to Criminal Charge," 58 ALR3d 662 (1974), "Assault and Battery: Secondary Smoke As Battery," 46 ALR5th 813 (1997), and the court precedent cited by Meta Lander, The Tobacco Problem (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1882), p 209.

Additional precedents and legal principles for criminal prosecutions, such as the Italian prosecutor may be considering, are at the case law site, the the international law site, and at the extradition site.

The Nuremberg precedent even went so far as to prosecute people for their pro-death words. Related precedents are in in process in Rwanda.

           By acting on the worker death, the Italian prosecutor is helping protect us all from the various tobacco effects that doctors have cited. In fact, "creation of a smoke-free workplace is the best predictor of progress in smoking cessation [as it] reduces smoking prevalance by around 25% and tobacco consumption by about 20%." see Glantz, SA, "Editorial: Preventing tobacco Use--The Youth Access Trap," 86 Am J Pub Health 156-157 (Feb 1996); Kinne S, Kristal AR,White E, and Hunt J, "Work-site Smoking Policies: The Population Impact in Washington State," 83 Am J Pub Health 1031-1033 (1993), etc.

           Doctors have centuries of experience making the medical analysis approach fine-tuned since the 1500's. And references that are NOT about cigarettes, but simply about the chemicals themselves, show the hazard, see

          a. Gosselin, Smith, Hodge, and Braddock, Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, 5th ed (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1984). Page II-4 lists toxicity levels of 1-6 (1, "practically non-toxic"; 4, "very toxic"; 6, "super-toxic"). Nicotine, item 772, pp II-237 and III-311-4 is rated a 6; coumarin, p II-257, item 861, is a 4.

          b. Robert Dreisbach and William Robertson, Handbook of Poisoning: Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment, 12th ed (Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lange, 1983 and 1987). Pages 35 and 259-263 cover carbon monoxide poisoning; pp 130-132, tobacco and nicotine; pp 385-7, anticoagulants, e.g., coumarin and warfarin.

          c. Sondra Goodman, Director, Household Hazardous Waste Project, HHWP's Guide to Hazardous Products Around the Home, 2d ed (Springfield, MO: Southwest Mo St Univ Press, 1989). Page 99 covers poisoning by carbon monoxide, of which cigarettes emit 42,000 ppm , exceeding the 29 CFR § 1910.1000 average safe limit of 50 ppm).

          d. Jay Arena and Richard Drew, Poisoning, 5th ed (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Pub, 1986). Pages 216-217 cover nicotine; pp 308-312, carbon monoxide; p 999, which lists coumarin, says, ominously, "see Warfarin," p 1007.

           The bottom line fact is that, due to cigarettes' deleteriousness, both in terms of inherent ingredients, and their emissions,

"Over 37 million people (one of every six Americans alive today) will die from cigarette smoking years before they otherwise would," see DHEW National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Research on Smoking Behavior, Research Monograph 17, Publication ADM 78-581, p v (Dec 1977).

           This number constitutes a "holocaust." Indeed, referring to the then mere "annual death toll of some 27,500," the Royal College of Physicians, in its book Smoking and Health Now (London: Pitman Medical and Scientific Publishing Co, 1971), p 9, used that exact word. They were much closer in time to the World War II holocaust than we are. So the web writer defers to their choice of word, respecting that their knowledge of appropriate words was likely greater than his now nearly three decades later. (Apologies for any offense that may be taken).

           Cigarette deaths are "natural and probable consequences," a term defined in Black's Law Dictionary, 6th ed (St. Paul: West Pub Co, 1990), p 1026, as events happening "so frequently as to be expected [intended] to happen again." Cigarette-caused deaths are not "accidents" ("unexpected" "unusual," "fortuitous" events), p 15.

           TCPG's special concern is crime. Here is what courts say:

"Nowhere is the practice of smoking more imbedded than in the nation's prisons and jails, where the proportion of smokers to non-smokers is many times higher than that of society in general." Doughty v Board, 731 F Supp 423, 424 (D Col, 1989).

"Nationwide, the [ratio] of smokers [to non-smokers] in prisons is 90 percent." McKinney v Anderson, 924 F2d 1500, 1507 n 21 (CA 9, 1991) affirmed and remanded, 509 US 25; 113 S Ct 2475; 125 L Ed 2d 22 (1993) .

          Subjecting people to a foreseeable hazard is already unlawful under the common law and other state and federal laws, in addition to the rule the Washington State Supreme Court upheld. This fact of other laws is well-established under several principles of law, e.g., the general protective law for the population, e.g., 18 USC § 1111 (the federal murder ban). Some laws are tailored to selected elements of the population, e.g., 5 USC 7902.(d) (the federal workers safety act), and 29 USC § 651 - § 678 (the Occupational Safety and Health Act).

           As the Italian prosecutor is acting in the direction of protecting worker safety, and following precedents in doing so, he is to be thanked and commended for doing so.

           The Crime Prevention Group (TCPG) provides educational material on our ancestors' beliefs and knowledge of tobacco effects and links. Our ancestors observed a link between tobacco use and alcoholism and crime. Smoking causes suffering, thus about 90% of alcoholics are smokers self-medicating themselves, detailed at our Prevent Alcoholism site. Smoking is addictive, i.e., induces impaired reasoning, the link to crime.

           Abortion was then more deemed a crime than now. There is a smoking link to abortion, due to the impaired judgment factor, and due to cigarettes' high toxic emissions.

           In this context, the Italian prosecutor is, by upholding the worker safety rule against on-the-job smoking, upholding moral values that seek to prevent abortion, alcoholism, SIDS, and crime. This, to many, unexpected side effect, is another reason to thank the prosecutor for investigating the matter. Many people criticize officials when they make decisons deemed contrary to values; here is a pro-values action that deserves our support.

The prosecutor especially needs our support in view of tobacco lobby pressure to prevent protection of nonsmokers.

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Copyright © 1998, 1999 Leroy J. Pletten