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Death Due to Secondhand Smoke

Court Upholds Secondhand Smoke Award in Airline Case

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- December 27, 2002 -- Olympic Airways was responsible for an asthmatic passenger's death caused by secondhand smoke, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled (Rubina Hasain v. Olympic Airways). The Court affirmed a lower court decision awarding $1.4 million to the man's widow.

Dr. Abid Hanson, who was seated three rows from the smoking section, experienced severe breathing problems from drifting smoke. His wife, Rubina Hasain, repeatedly asked that he be reseated, explaining his medical condition to the flight attendant. Even though empty seats were available, the flight attendant ignored these requests. Dr. Hanson died of an asthma attack while on board the plane.

In upholding the award to Ms. Hasain, the Appeals Court called the behavior of the flight attendant "willful misconduct." It agreed with the lower court that the attendant's actions were "a blatant disregard of industry standards and airline policies."

Hazards of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand or environmental tobacco smoke can be hazardous to the public at large, not just to asthmatics. The Environmental Protection Agency considers it a human lung carcinogen, responsible for some lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers (Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking, December 1992). Secondhand smoke is also associated with lower respiratory tract infections.

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