Whilst news of large scale, asbestos industries continue to predominate amongst the 52 known, active mineral using nations, principally Canada, India, China and Russia, stories in the UK press regularly surface, which serve as a reminder of this country’s own horrific legacy of asbestos awareness denial.

Just this month, the widow of a mesothelioma victim, who died 12 months previously, whilst still only in his late 50s, was finally awarded mesothelioma compensation.

Her husband was first exposed to asbestos during his employment as a turner and grinder at a North of England cigarette filter factory during 30 years continuous employment. Not uncommonly, the company, at first, denied that the victim had been exposed to asbestos at their factory, although the defence was later abandoned.

The denial tends to be made partly because of the unusually long period of dormancy before the first asbestosis symptoms appear, sometimes up to 50 years after the exposure occurred. Deadly asbestos fibres inhaled in the atmosphere become stuck fast in the lining of the lungs, heart or abdominal cavity, eventually leading to asbestosis or mesothelioma cancer. Once diagnosis is confirmed, life expectancy is little more than 12 months.

A 1989 Journal of Medicine research study conducted with a test group of 33 cigarette factory workers, who had produced filters made with the lethal blue (crocidolite) asbestos showed a statistically significant higher rates of death from lung cancer and mesothelioma.

It has also been highlighted previously, that for a period of time in the 1950s, the Kent cigarette brand also manufactured filters containing 10mgs of blue asbestos. Despite discovering that smokers were inhaling asbestos fibres from their own patented Micronite filters and were being exposed to asbestos, known to cause serious lung diseases, Kent cigarettes continued to be on sale with the asbestos filters until 1957.

Asbestos has also been used in various other tobacco products, such as cigarette papers and pipe tobaccos.