Pou v. British American Tobacco (New Zealand) Limited & Anor
Pou instituted these proceedings in June 2002 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She died in September 2002 at age 52. Pou had been a heavy smoker since she was 17 years old. Pou’s children continued the case after her death as executors of her estate.
Pou alleged that she started smoking in 1968 because she was exposed to advertisements that glamourized cigarettes, promoted by the defendant companies. She alleged that the defendants knew or ought reasonably to have known, prior to 1968, that cigarettes were addictive and caused serious illness. Pou claimed that the defendants breached their duty of care to warn her that she might become addicted and/or that she might suffer injury if she continued to smoke; alternatively, they breached their duty of care to stop manufacturing and supplying cigarettes when they knew or should have known that they were dangerous.
New Zealand’s High Court rejected Pou’s case on several grounds: the Court found that there has never been a duty on a cigarette manufacturer to cease manufacture and distribution and there is no basis for such a duty; further, even if there was a duty to warn, the dangers inherent in smoking were common knowledge in 1968 when Pou started smoking; further, even if there was a duty to warn, Pou failed to establish that she would not have begun/continued to smoke if the warning had been given; and further, even if Pou was not aware of the risks of smoking in 1968 she must have been aware of those risks by 1974 and thereafter she elected to keep smoking and did not take steps to quit although she was able to do so.