Three more provinces to join tobacco lawsuits
Published Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:26PM EDT
Saskatchewan and Manitoba joined Alberta Thursday in ramping up lawsuits against tobacco companies in an effort to recover health-care costs spent on smoking-related illnesses.
Alberta announced plans Wednesday to launch $10-billion lawsuit against tobacco manufacturers to recover costs dating back to the 1950s.
Legislation was just approved in Saskatchewan giving that province legal authority to file a lawsuit on behalf of residents. Manitoba also passed a similar law.
The three provinces now join British Columbia, Ontario, News Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador in suing tobacco manufacturers.
"This lawsuit, to be clear, is not about banning cigarettes, or punishing smokers, it is about recovering health-care costs as a result of the misconduct of the tobacco industry," Premier Alison Redford said Wednesday.
Redford said tobacco use causes about 3,000 deaths in the province every year.
The lawsuit will play a major role in her government's smoking-reduction strategy to be released in June, she said.
The legal action is one the largest in the province's history and it has the Alberta anti-smoking lobby on its feet.
"It's about time that they are brought to justice and this particular lawsuit will not only hold tobacco companies accountable for their actions, it recovers the health-care costs," said Action on Smoking and Health's Les Hagen.
"And it will also reshape public health," he said.
Alberta Health Minister Fred Home said the cost of treating chronic smoking-related illnesses such as lung disease and cancer is in the billions in that province and across the country.
"In fact, the business of health care is quickly becoming the business of managing chronic disease in our society," he said.
Some smokers didn't seem to mind the province tackling the tobacco industry in the courts.
"It's a double-edged sword, right? We do it to ourselves, but you know, at the same time they're putting a product out there that kills people," Kevin Crosby told CTV Edmonton Wednesday.
"It's addictive and it kills people," he said.
The tobacco industry has argued it's being unfairly penalized by governments that regulate their activities and share in the profits.
Alberta takes in about $950 million in tobacco taxes every year.
Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec are expected to file lawsuits soon as well.
The tobacco industry is also battling a $27-billion civil lawsuit filed by smokers in Quebec who blame smoking for their health problems.
With files from CTV Edmonton's Serena Mah