British American Tobacco Limited v. The Environmental Action Network Ltd.

British American Tobacco Limited v. The Environmental Action Network Ltd., Civil Appl. No. 27 of 2003 (Uganda).
Download Judgment: English
Country: Uganda
Region: Africa
Year: 2003
Court: High Court of Uganda at Kampala
Health Topics: Tobacco
Human Rights: Right of access to information, Right to life
Tags: Tobacco control

The applicant, the Environmental Action Network Ltd (TEAN) brought a notice of motion against British American Tobacco Limited (BAT), alleging that BAT failed to warn consumers of the danger of its tobacco products, violating consumers’ right to life as enshrined in Article 22 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

Further, TEAN requested that the Court order BAT to provide sufficient information on health risks to consumers in advertisements and on packaging, as well as to determine the sufficient amount of information (size, graphics, wording) to adequately inform tobacco consumers of the health risks.

TEAN supported its claim on the ground that the manufacturer of a dangerous product has a legal duty to adequately inform the consumer of the health risks associated with tobacco consumption.

The Court noted that the Constitution of Uganda prohibits an intentional violation of a person’s right to life according to Article 22. However, the Court held that the claim of failure to warn was too remote to establish causation between tobacco products and harm to consumers' lives. Furthermore, the Court found that the absence of warning by the tobacco company had other intentions than to take away the life of the consumers.

Finally, the Court held that due to its lack of expertise, it could not fully and sufficiently decide which kind of information should be included in labels and publications, as requested by the applicant, and that the applicant should have presented clear evidence and unambiguous information for the Court to make a sound decision.

"Clearly, Article 22(11) of the Constitution prohibits deprivation intentionally of a person’s life. It follows therefore that whoever wants to bring an action under this provision must first have his right either been violated or being violated or about to be violated, and such violation must be intentional; in which case the action brought must allege violation, past, present or imminent." Page 4.

"Failure to make full disclosure of the dangers or risks of smoking cigarettes to the consumers of the cigarettes seems to be too remote to taking away of the life of such consumers. It seems to me that failure to disclose such dangers may have alternative intentions, such as not to demote the business of selling cigarettes; to attribute intention to kill such failure would call for strict, if not impossible proof." Page 5.

"With due respect, this prayer is asking too much from the court. The court cannot determine fully and sufficiently the kind of information to be included in the desired labels and publication. It simply does not have the expertise to do so; and in fact, the way the prayer is couched, it imposes on the court a duty it cannot discharge. It was up to the applicant to present the court with the information it required for the court to consider. The application is unclear and embarrassingly ambiguous and could not pass the test." Page 9.