British Columbia Court Allows Tobacco Lawsuit to Proceed

The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled that a government lawsuit to recover healthcare costs related to smoking-related diseases is constitutionally valid, the Canadian Press reported May 20.

The Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act seeks C$10 billion from tobacco companies. It claims that tobacco companies failed to inform consumers about the dangers of smoking and misled consumers into believing that light cigarettes are safe. The lawsuit also claims tobacco makers targeted their advertising and marketing at children.

“It’s been our intention to move forward with the lawsuit and I think it’s time to hold tobacco companies accountable for the wrong they’ve done and the harm they’ve caused to British Columbians,” said Attorney General Geoff Plant.

The tobacco industry said it would appeal the court ruling. David Laundy, spokesman for the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council, said the B.C. legislation limits the tobacco industry in accessing evidence on health-related issues, such as how many people have become ill from smoking.

He added that Canadian tobacco companies are unable to pay huge legal settlements. “Even if after spending additional tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to take this through to the Supreme Court on one hand and go through on the other action on the other, it will cost the taxpayers all this money and in the end they’ll never be able to collect,” Laundy said.

The lawsuit names as defendants Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans, Benson and Hedges, JTI-Macdonald, the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council, and several foreign tobacco companies.