We’ve represented railroad workers who smoked during their career. When dealing with clients who are now struggling with mesothelioma (a deadly asbestos-related cancer) who have smoked, we get asked whether smoking cigarettes actually caused the mesothelioma. Here’s the answer - no, smoking cigarettes and mesothelioma are not directly connected.
Why? Because mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that smoking cigarettes dramatically increases the risk of contracting other asbestos cancers afflicting railroad workers such as lung cancers, colon cancers, throat cancers, and so forth.
Medical studies have shown that railroad workers (e.g. conductors, engineers, yardmen, trackmen, etc.) who smoked on a regular basis, and were exposed to asbestos, had a 50 to 80 fold relative risk increase over non-smoking/non-asbestos railroad workers, in contracting lung cancer. This is called "synergy" and radically increases the risk of developing cancer for railroad workers who smoke and have been exposed to asbestos during their careers.
To make matters worse, the railroad industry did nothing to warn the workers of this risk so the workers had no idea that their risk of lung cancer so vastly increased because of the mix between smoking and exposure to asbestos fibers. This is why, if you or a loved one, was diagnosed with mesothelioma or another type of cancer and have a history of both smoking and exposure to asbestos, you may have grounds to file a FELA claim against your railroad employer (e.g. Norfolk Southern, CSX, Amtrak, etc.).
To get more information about mesothelioma, the link with smoking, and your legal rights, take a look at these articles: