SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Korea Bizwire) — The National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) has reaffirmed its determination to prevail in its legal battle against tobacco companies, emphasizing the unmistakable causal link between tobacco and cancer.
NHIS Chairman Jung Ki-suck drew a parallel between tobacco and drugs during a recent media interview, arguing that both society and tobacco companies, which contribute to addiction among smokers, should be held accountable.
Jung, a professor of pulmonology at Hallym University, stressed that the NHIS must emerge victorious in its ongoing lawsuit against tobacco giants, including KT&G Corp., Philip Morris Korea Inc. and BAT Korea Ltd., a legal battle that has been underway since 2014.
In April 2014, the NHIS initiated a lawsuit against these tobacco companies, asserting a direct connection between tobacco usage and cancer.
The NHIS is seeking compensation of 53.3 billion won (US$405 million) for the 10-year period in which it covered the public contributions for 3,465 patients diagnosed with lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, and other smoking-related illnesses.
However, the first trial in November 2020 ended in defeat for the NHIS.
The court’s decision cited the possibility of factors other than smoking causing the diseases, the absence of design and labeling defects, and the failure to mitigate or conceal the addictive properties of cigarettes as the basis for its verdict.
The NHIS immediately appealed the decision and is now engaged in a second trial.
It is crucial to note that despite prior legal precedents recognizing a causal connection between smoking and cancer, the court did not acknowledge individual cases.
The key strategy to reverse the outcome of the original court decision involves in-depth examinations of individual case studies.
From the pool of over 3,400 patients involved in the lawsuit, 30 survivors were selected for detailed analysis. This analysis assesses their smoking habits and the impact on the development of cancer.
Jung highlighted the significant oversight in the first trial, where none of the more than 3,000 lung cancer patients received recognition, despite the well-established carcinogenic properties of tobacco.
He emphasized the astonishment within the medical community and among experts regarding the initial trial’s verdict.
He underscored the NHIS’ commitment to conducting a thorough legal review, led by the organization’s Legal Support Office, and preparing for the second trial with new evidence.
Furthermore, Jung emphasized the alarming rise in medical expenses related to lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.
These expenses, which were 1.7 trillion won on an annual basis when the lawsuit was initiated in 2014, more than doubled to 3.5 trillion won by 2021.
He expressed disappointment in this trend and emphasized the growing damage inflicted by smoking.
Jung also highlighted the potential for a healthier society and a more financially robust health insurance system if the dangers of tobacco are widely acknowledged and addressed.
Jung also stressed the need to explore why individuals struggle to quit smoking, leading to the development of lung cancer.
He drew parallels between the addictive nature of tobacco and that of drugs, emphasizing the urgency of this issue.
M. H. Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)