B.C. starts next round in tobacco fight
VICTORIA - The B.C. government is continuing its fight against the tobacco industry, Attorney General Graeme Bowbrick and Health Minister Corky Evans said today.
The province has refiled its lawsuit to hold the tobacco industry accountable for the health-care costs related to tobacco use.
"Our lawsuit alleges that tobacco companies have always known their products were harmful, but that they conspired to suppress this information," said Bowbrick. "We believe those who wrongfully manufactured and marketed tobacco products should be required to pay for the harm they caused."
"Although we can't undo the suffering that has already been caused by tobacco use, we can hold the tobacco industry responsible now - and in doing so, let British Columbians know how the business practices of this industry have resulted in needless harm to hundreds of thousands of people in our province," Evans said.
The lawsuit maintains that the tobacco industry:
-- Worked together to keep smokers from getting information about the health risks of smoking.
-- Marketed cigarettes to children, and that these marketing practices have had a strong influence on young people becoming addicted to tobacco.
-- Provided cigarettes to third parties, knowing that those cigarettes would be smuggled back into Canada, and as a result, cigarettes were more readily available to children.
-- Sold "light" cigarettes as an alternative to give false reassurance to smokers who were concerned about their health - even though these cigarettes deliver about the same amount of tar and nicotine as regular cigarettes.
Today's action follows the passing of the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act.
Ministry of Attorney General
Ministry of Health
B.C.'S LEGAL ACTION AGAINST THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY
British Columbia is recognized as a world leader in tobacco prevention. B.C.'s tobacco strategy is to protect young people from tobacco, to change the behaviour of tobacco companies and to hold them responsible for the damage caused by their products.
Part of the province's strategy includes legal action. In November 1998, B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to file a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The lawsuit was based on the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, which was passed that year.
While the B.C. Supreme Court found most of the act to be constitutionally sound, the court ruled that certain "extraterritorial provisions" - which held foreign tobacco companies legally responsible for their Canadian subsidiaries - exceeded the authority of the province. In response, the government passed new revised legislation this past summer.
In the new Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act there are no extra-territorial provisions. In its lawsuit, the province alleges foreign manufacturers took an active role in the tobacco business in British Columbia and committed wrongs in this province.
For more information on the provincial government's research on the tobacco industry, please visit http://www.hlth.gov.bc.ca/tobacco/ on the Ministry of Health Web site.