September 7, 2004
the Death of Joe Battaglia,
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) mourns the death of Joe Battaglia, who died on Friday, September 3 in Toronto at age 63 of a heart attack after a life-long battle with tobacco. Joe’s first battle with tobacco was a personal one. Like many smokers, he tried repeatedly to quit smoking and failed just as often. In more recent years, he realized that he was not just fighting against a botanical substance, but also against a giant corporation. Imperial Tobacco, the manufacturer of his Matinée cigarettes was against him too. They were deliberately designing their products so as to make it harder for Joe and million of other smokers to quit.
Joe sued them in small claims court for $6,000 for deception, and lost, but not by much. But Joe was no quitter, in more ways than one. He doggedly pursued Imperial Tobacco on appeal to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. His appeal was awaiting consideration by the court when he died.
Joe was brave. During the trial in 2000, PSC member Dr Tony Graham, a cardiologist and one of Joe’s own witnesses described for the court in great detail the exact condition of Joe’s coronary arteries. It wasn’t good. According to Dr. Graham, in 1999 Joe already had “triple vessel coronary artery disease,” and that for patients in his condition, “their five year cardiac mortality varies between 21 and 27%.” Joe bravely listened to Dr. Graham’s testimony. When it was over, Joe knew he was a walking heart attack, and everybody in the court room knew it too. Still, try as he might, Joe was unable to stop smoking cigarettes, so strong was his addiction.
Joe was selfless. His suit was not about the money, nor about himself. As Joe said in his factum currently before the appeal court, “…our young, as yet, untainted children and grandchildren deserve quick and rigid legal intervention to protect them from the dangerous, wasteful and insidious practice of smoking cigarettes.”
Joe, we salute you. Rest assured that Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and caring Canadians everywhere will be doing all that we can to call tobacco companies to account, and to carry on your dogged and determined struggle for a smoke-free Canada.