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Hol(e)y Smokes

Working on the ALC’s Tobacco Law Project

Blog by: Eógan Hickey, ALC student Fall-term 2018, LLM International & European Law (European Union Law track).

‘Participating in the Amsterdam Law Clinic was a really worthwhile experience. I was part of a group of five LLM students, both Dutch and non-Dutch, who assisted a public interest lawyer in a case involving cigarette emissions. This was a fascinating case which has garnered attention in Dutch media and beyond. Based on scientific evidence, our client believed that the cigarette emissions testing method drawn up by the ISO and prescribed by an EU Directive was not fit for purpose. Basically, because of tiny holes in cigarettes, the testing method artificially underestimates the levels of toxins, with serious health consequences, especially for children. There is also evidence that the ISO testing method was drawn up under tobacco industry influence.

We advised our client how the testing method and relevant parts of the EU Directive could be challenged under EU law. To do that, we researched and analysed various substantive and procedural EU, Dutch and International legal issues. We particularly focussed on fundamental rights and transparency under EU law as well as international conventions on tobacco control, consumer protection and children’s rights. The legal issues we uncovered were both stimulating and intellectually challenging. The case involved very unusual facts and provided a rare opportunity for young aspiring lawyers to work on issues involving EU constitutional law, fundamental rights and international law. 

Because of tiny holes in cigarettes, the testing method artificially underestimates the levels of toxins.

Apart from the legal issues, what I really enjoyed about this project was that it was focussed on achieving a concrete result. This distinguished it from ordinary academic study and made it more exciting. It meant we had to think practically and strategically to be of maximum help to our client and this really whet my appetite for legal practice. 

Moreover, it was great to meaningfully contribute to a worthwhile cause in the public interest. The work we were doing was about more than grades and ECTS credits, it was a real case with real consequences for real people.

In short, I would recommend the law clinic to any LLM student. The clinic is not only a great way to hone your practical skills, but also gives you the chance to work on rare and exciting legal issues. It also gives you the rewarding opportunity to contribute to valuable causes in the public interest.’