Smoking, Lung Cancer, & Asbestos

Gornbein: About the issue of smoking and eligibility for compensation from asbestos manufacturers.

Abramson: That’s an issue that we’re often asked about. First of all, we often see smoking cases. Many, many, many of our clients over the years had smoked at one time or another. If you look back in time at what was known about the hazards of smoking back in the 60s and 50s to what we know today, it’s a whole different world. Today, we know definitively that smoking not only causes emphysema, it causes lung cancer, but back in the 60s and 50s, what was really known to the general public about the association between lung cancer and smoking was not quite as crystal clear as it is today. So people in those days, they were at a much greater rate of smokers, and the reality is that smoking, in and of itself, if a person is… There was a 1969 study done by Dr. Irving Selikoff, who was the foremost expert in asbestos medicine. And Dr. Selikoff’s article stated that a person in the general population who is a smoker but not exposed to asbestos is seven times more likely to develop lung cancer. A person who is asbestos-exposed but not a smoker is four times more likely. But when you put the two together, there’s a synergistic effect, similar to throwing gasoline on a fire, and the person is 90-fold, 90 times greater at risk for developing lung cancer.

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