Quebec, Ontario to take on Big Tobacco companies

Quebec is in line to become the fourth province to launch a lawsuit against tobacco companies in an attempt to recover health costs.
Following in the footsteps of the Ontario government, Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc announced Monday the province’s intention to take on cigarette manufacturers.
Ontario announced a $50 billion lawsuit against Imperial Tobacco Canada last week, based on the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Cost Recovery Act, similar legislation was passed in Quebec in June.
Though no dollar amount has been placed on Quebec’s suit, Bolduc said it will likely be in the billions.
Bolduc said the basis of the lawsuit is that tobacco companies did not sufficiently inform the public of potential dangers associated with smoking despite having documentation attesting to the harms.
Some Montrealers are arguing that the dangers of smoking are now well-known, so the province shouldn’t look to cigarette companies to recover health care costs – they should target the patients wracking up the bills.
“People made the decision to smoke,” said Nasra Abdulkadir, a smoker herself. “I’m OK with paying more [for health care]. You have to take responsibility for your actions.”
Joel Borges, a non-smoker, agrees with the Abdulkadir. “If you’re going to harm yourself by smoking, you should have to foot a percentage of the bill.” He opposes reductions in free enterprise and doesn’t support Quebec taking action on tobacco companies.
Still, many non-smokers at Concordia were applauding Ontario for being the third province, after British Columbia and Nova Scotia, to take on Big Tobacco for health costs. “It’s making a statement,” said Shannon Phenix. “It would be right for Quebec to follow in their footsteps. Definitely.”
Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer Society said last week he was very happy about Ontario’s action. “Tobacco companies have done many things wrong over decades. No one said that it was OK to target teenagers,” he said. “They targeted women and advertised to kids. They deceived consumers regarding light and coated cigarettes. They knew about the health effects and the addictive nature of tobacco products from their independent research.”
Cunningham defends the provinces’ right to sue for health care cost recovery, drawing attention to the fact that while federal government collects a lot of the taxes on cigarette manufacturing, provinces administer health care.
He also supports new federal bills that will ban flavoured cigarillos and the advertising of tobacco products in Canadian newspapers and magazines.
In its defence, Imperial Tobacco Canada is slamming the Ontario government for letting the sale of contraband cigarettes make up 50 per cent of all tobacco sales in the province, claiming the Ontario lost $500 million tax dollars in 2007-2008 due to the illegal cigarette industry.
“We manufacture a legal product that is subject to unreasonably high taxation and we do this within tightly regulated parameters,” says Donald McCarty, Imperial Tobacco Canada’s Vice President of Law. The company issued a statement last week saying they will fight the lawsuit vigorously.


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