Launch tobacco lawsuit: Cancer Society

Nadya Bell
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Justice Group says billions could be made from government lawsuit against tobacco companies

The Canadian Cancer Society says the provincial government should team up with other provinces that are suing tobacco manufacturers to recover health-care costs.

British Columbia and New Brunswick are moving ahead with lawsuits against the tobacco manufacturers, with a court date set in 2010 for British Columbia's litigation.

The Canadian Cancer Society says the provincial government should team up with other provinces that are suing tobacco manufacturers to recover health-care costs.

British Columbia and New Brunswick are moving ahead with lawsuits against the tobacco manufacturers, with a court date set in 2010 for British Columbia's litigation.

"I would like to see more provinces sue, because there is a benefit to working together, collaboratively. There are economies of scale to be had, in terms of paying for lawyers," says Rob Cunningham, the Canadian Cancer Society's senior policy adviser.

The Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government was one of the first provinces to introduce legislation that would allow it to sue for the recovery of health-care costs.

After announcing in 2002 that it had retained a law firm in Missouri, the province so far has not made any progress on the case.

However, Newfoundland and Labrador did contribute as an intervener to the Supreme Court case where it was decided that similar legislation in British Columbia is legal.

The Canadian lawsuits come after tobacco companies agreed to an out-of-court civil settlement with the American government worth more than US$200 billion over 25 years, according to Cunningham.

"I think if governments persevere, at the end of the day there will be a very important outcome for provincial governments."

"That is a figure that provincial ministers of finance or any provincial government can't ignore," he says.

Cunningham says the Canadian governments have a stronger case against the tobacco companies because the Canadian government pays a much larger percentage of health-care costs than the American government.

"The tobacco industry is responsible for the tobacco epidemic we have in Canada. They have advertised to kids, marketed to women and denied the truth. They have misled the public about the health effects, including for so-called light or mild cigarettes," Cunningham says.

"As a result, governments have spent billions of dollars in health-care costs, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians have died, families have suffered," he says.

Scott Antle from the Newfoundland and Labrador Canadian Cancer Society says he hopes any money from a settlement would be put back into smoking cessation, tobacco-control programs and cancer care.

"At the end of it, the outcome is certainly a very good thing, and it could result in some good things for the health of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," he says.

Smoking rates in the province have remained constant for the past four years, hovering between 21 and 22 per cent, according to the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey.

Antle says the government needs to step up their anti-tobacco legislation by increasing tobacco taxes and banning cigarette displays in stores called power walls.

nbell@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Canadian Cancer Society, Supreme Court, Canadian Tobacco

Geographic location: British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick Missouri Canada

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Recent comments

  • peter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    what we need is for the cancer society to stop trying to tell us how to live our lives. power walls is an idiotic expression that only someone who works with the cancer society could come up with.

    are they really so stunned to think that because the smokes go into a drawer that people will think they arent there anymore.

    go ahead and sue the cigarrette companies. get a huge settlement. then all the hundreds of billions of dollars that government have ENJOYED in screwing people out of in the form of taxes should come out of that settlement.

    go ahead and increase taxes. it will just give more incentive to the smugglers. and i for one will buy from them.

    the Volstead Act ( prohibition ) didnt work for the americans and it wont work here,

  • peter
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    what we need is for the cancer society to stop trying to tell us how to live our lives. power walls is an idiotic expression that only someone who works with the cancer society could come up with.

    are they really so stunned to think that because the smokes go into a drawer that people will think they arent there anymore.

    go ahead and sue the cigarrette companies. get a huge settlement. then all the hundreds of billions of dollars that government have ENJOYED in screwing people out of in the form of taxes should come out of that settlement.

    go ahead and increase taxes. it will just give more incentive to the smugglers. and i for one will buy from them.

    the Volstead Act ( prohibition ) didnt work for the americans and it wont work here,