Bénédicte Ficq, The story behind the story: Manipulating into cigarette addiction should be a criminal offence

Bénédicte Ficq is a renowned Dutch lawyer who was consecutively awarded best female criminal lawyer several years in a row. In April 2016 Bénédicte made headlines when she, together with lung cancer patient Anne Marie van Veen, decided to sue the tobacco industry.

Ficq unraveled her case on the stage of TEDxAmsterdamWomen as if she were in court: “Addiction is officially a disease. As such, it should be punishable by law to convict the tobacco industry for a criminal offence, on the grounds that the manufacturers involved willingly and knowingly make smokers addicted by ‘genious’ design of their product, causing a delayed death.” She rested her case receiving a standing ovation.

Best female defense attorney

Bénédicte’s own introduction on stage: “To me, my profession is more than about legal competencies. I have a deep need for an involved mental fire inside. Without that I am nothing. I also think my primal fear of being screwed by an almighty government, plays a role in my ‘fish in the water’ sentiments as an attorney” she chuckled. Bénédicte Ficq (1957) is a Dutch lawyer who frequently pleads in criminal cases. She is a graduate of the Groningen State University of Law (1986) in the Netherlands. For years her peers elected her as best female defense attorney. She was co-founder of law firm Meijering Van Kleef, Ficq & Van der Werf in 1992, where she works ever since. Her list of – often controversial – clients include Dino Soerel, Marcel Teunissen, Badr Hari and Jan-Dirk Paarlberg.

Swimming against the current

“Compared to my other cases, this tobacco case is very different in nature. This particular battle is incredibly motivating for me.” Ficq said. One that puts her almost in the role of public prosecutor. In April 2016 Bénédicte Ficq filed a lawsuit against tobacco manufacturers on behalf of her client Anne Marie van der Veen, initiator of ‘Sick of Smoking’. “During the past months, and in the coming period, I find myself in the middle of a case that lit a firestorm of public commotion about smoking. It is like swimming against the current. A strong current. I am talking with the Public Prosecution Service in the Netherlands about the necessity and viability of pleading and prosecuting against the tobacco industry for distributing and selling unhealthy, addictive and deadly tobacco products on the market. Public opinion, however, is generally not with me. Most people feel it is the smoker who, in fact, chooses to smoke despite the knowledge that tobacco is a sickening and addictive product. According to them, that ‘self- fault’ stands in the way of accountability of the tobacco industry, and thus stands in the way of a successful lawsuit. From my point of view, however, that is not a viable reason at all. Why? When a company manipulates someone into addiction it is premeditated. And when that person becomes sick or dies, then the manipulator should be treated as a criminal because that offence leads to either sickness or a delayed death of the smoker. That is how I look at it. The cigarette is an extremely well-engineered and well developed product that is meant to lead you to addiction purely out of greed by the manufacturer. I rest my case.”

Text by: Nico Dingemans