Published : 2013-08-28 20:05
Updated : 2013-08-28 20:05
The National Health Insurance Service is reportedly moving to file lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers to seek compensation for the expenses incurred by smoking.
NHIS president Kim Jong-dae told a seminar Tuesday that the corporation has secured clinical data that proves the ill effects of smoking on people’s health.
At the seminar, the corporation unveiled the findings of clinical research its team has conducted for the past 20 years. The team has kept track of some 1.3 million people who had medical checkups between 1992 and 1995.
The data showed that among men, smokers had a 6.5 times higher risk of developing laryngeal cancer than nonsmokers. The risk was 4.6 times higher for lung cancer and 3.6 times higher for esophageal cancer.
Among women, the chances of smokers getting laryngeal cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer were 5.5, 4.6 and 2.9 times higher, respectively, than nonsmokers.
The team also found that among men, smoking was the main cause in 79 percent of the laryngeal cancer cases, 71.7 percent of lung cancer cases and 64 percent of esophageal cancer cases.
Kim said the data would enable the NHIS to take diverse measures, including suing tobacco companies, to compensate for the financial losses it has suffered due to smoking.
The NHIS claimed the medical cost of treating smoking-related diseases was tallied at 1.7 trillion won in 2011, accounting for 3.7 percent of the 46 trillion won the NHIS paid in insurance benefits.
Thus far, four lawsuits have been filed against tobacco manufacturers in Korea, all by individuals. But none of the plaintiffs has won in their legal battle.
The court has acknowledged the causal relationship between smoking and some diseases, including lung cancer, but has not recognized any wrongdoing by cigarette companies or defects in the products they had produced.
The court’s verdict suggests that it would take the NHIS more than the indisputable clinical data to win its suit against tobacco companies. It will have to be able to prove that cigarette manufacturers have committed some kind of wrongdoing.
Yet suing tobacco companies is an option worth taking for the administrator of the state-run health insurance program. Its action will have the effect of alerting the public to the danger of smoking.
In this regard, the NHIS needs to expand its health promotion and disease prevention campaigns, as the cost of preventive care is much lower than that of later disease treatment.