class-action suit over light cigarettes filed against Imperial Tobacco
Fraser, Keith. Canadian Press NewsWire.
Toronto:May 8, 2003.
VANCOUVER (CP) - A class-action lawsuit aimed at
stopping Canada's biggest tobacco company from using the words "light" and
"mild" to describe its cigarettes was filed in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday.
The representative plaintiff, 46-year-old Kenneth
Knight from Roberts Creek on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, smoked Imperial Tobacco
light brands, usually Player's Light, for 17 years.
He claims that while he thought he was choosing a
safer option, in fact it was just as dangerous and debilitating as regular
"What this case is about is a deceptive marketing
practice," said Knight's lawyer, David Klein.
"In fact, Health Canada has said that it's going to
ban the use of the descriptors light and mild," said Klein. "Although the
regulations have been in the works for about two years, it hasn't actually
Klein said his client is seeking two types of relief
- an injunction to stop Imperial from using the words, and compensation from
sales in British Columbia that could run into the hundreds of millions of
He said a recent class-action suit in Illinois, which
resulted in a verdict of $10 billion was an impetus for the B.C. case, which
applies only to smokers who buy products in the province.
Klein said there is plenty of evidence to prove that
light smokes are as bad for your health as regular ones, including a warning
from Health Canada based on a wide range of research and academic studies.
The case is supported by a Burnaby-based non-profit
organization, Airspace Action on Smoking Health.
The organization's president, Heather Mackenzie, said
more than 45,000 Canadians die every year from smoking and part of the
problem is the deceptive use of light and mild brand names.
Yves-Thomas Dorval, director of public affairs for
Montreal-based Imperial Tobacco, said his company had not been notified of
the court case and could not comment on the specifics.
But he said the company has always co-operated with
the government and has indicated they are willing to drop the light and mild
descriptors if certain conditions are met, including a suitable replacement
system that would not confuse consumers.
"We said we're willing to co-operate, but these are
the conditions ... but they never came back to us," he said.
Indexing (document details) Subjects: Crime, Health,
Litigation Classification Codes 9172 Companies: Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd.
Author(s): Fraser, Keith Publication title: Canadian Press NewsWire.
Toronto: May 8, 2003. Source type: Periodical ProQuest document ID:
509753201 Text Word Count 373
The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.:Oct 25, 2004. p.
The federal government finds itself in a British
Columbia court on the opposite side of a position it argued only three years
ago. Circumstances may justify its tactics, but its 2001 argument should
direct its actions.
In 1968, federal health minister John Munro said it
was important to tell
smokers how much tar and nicotine their cigarettes
contained. "We know of no safe cigarettes or safe way to smoke," he said,
but the publication of tar and nicotine levels would help smokers, "if they
wish, avoid those with high and choose those with low levels."
In 1976, Canadian tobacco companies began to list
those levels. This was useful consumer information. They also promoted the
cigarettes that contained less of those harmful ingredients as "mild" and
"light." This was not useful.
The trouble with portraying still-hazardous
cigarettes as mild is that much depends on how they are smoked. Holes placed
around the filter of a "light" cigarette permit air to cut the smoke, for
instance; but if smokers cover the holes while inhaling, they will draw in a
greater concentration of smoke than was measured in the laboratory. Some may
suck more intently on light cigarettes than on regular ones to get the
sensation they seek. And they may smoke more of them because, after all, the
cigarettes are billed as milder and lighter.
In 2001, then-health-minister Allan Rock told the
tobacco companies to strip the terms "mild" and "light" from their
vocabulary, and threatened regulation or prohibition if they did not do so
voluntarily. Then he was shuffled from the health portfolio. His successor,
Anne McLellan, let the campaign lapse.
Today, B.C. resident Kenneth Knight hopes to pursue a
class-action lawsuit against Imperial Tobacco Inc. He contends the company
aggressively promoted "mild" and "light" cigarettes as benign even though it
knew they were hazardous, particularly given the way people smoked them. And
the federal government? It is arguing alongside the tobacco company that Mr.
Knight's case be dismissed.
Ottawa's position has less to do with the truth of
Mr. Knight's contention than with the fear of being held partly liable.
Ottawa did, after all, encourage the promotion of low tar and nicotine
levels, and Mr. Knight seeks to have smokers reimbursed for the cigarettes
they have bought. The government's face may be red in this matter, but it is
obliged to protect taxpayers from the consequences of a successful action.
Suit aside, however, Mr. Rock's argument made sense
in 2001 and it makes sense now. The use of "mild" and "light" to market
cigarettes, a known killer even when used as intended, is a bad idea.
Current Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh should pick up where Mr. Rock left
Indexing (document details) Section: Editorial
Publication title: The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Oct 25, 2004. pg. A.12
Source type: Newspaper ISSN: 03190714 ProQuest document ID: 1056142961 Text
Word Count 449
firms misled smokers, suit alleges:
:[Final Edition] Jonathan Fowlie. The Vancouver Sun.
Vancouver, B.C.:Oct 26, 2004. p. B7
Man argues that Imperial Tobacco should face class
action over 'light,' 'mild' labelling
Light and mild brands of cigarettes are deceptive to
the public and a class action suit should be certified in B.C. to hold
Canada's largest tobacco producer to account, David Klein, a consumer class
action lawyer, argued in B.C. Supreme Court Monday.
Klein was arguing on behalf of his client, Kenneth
Knight of Roberts Creek, who is attempting to initiate a class action suit
against Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd.
Knight's claim alleges that Imperial Tobacco misled
smokers to believe that light and mild cigarettes are less harmful than
regular brands, and calls for an order compelling the company to stop using
It also asks for the company to either return "all
sums [of money] class members paid to purchase light cigarettes" in the
province, or for it to "disgorge all revenue or profits" it made on those
The claim cites research that suggests light
cigarettes can be as harmful as regulars. "There's a phenomenon known as
compensation, which people consciously and unconsciously do when they switch
to a ... light or mild cigarette," Klein said outside the court Monday,
explaining why the light and mild labels are deceptive, and reiterating what
he argued in court.
"It involves taking longer draws, holding the smoke
in your lungs for longer, smoking more cigarettes and blocking the vent
holes -- consciously or unconsciously -- with your lips or fingers," he
"The amount of tar and nicotine, and other smoke
constituents, ends up being the same as if you smoked a regular cigarette."
In its statement of defence, Imperial Tobacco
responds to the issue of compensation saying the phenomenon "varies from
individual to individual," and "is rarely complete or permanent."
In his statement, Knight says he bought and daily
smoked about one and a half packs of light cigarettes made by Imperial
Tobacco for about 17 years. If the class action goes ahead, however, it will
not seek to recover damages for personal injuries from anyone registered in
For the case to go ahead as a class action suit, a
B.C. Supreme Court judge needs to certify the claim.
Christina Dona, a spokeswoman for Imperial Tobacco in
Montreal, said her company will argue during the hearing, which is scheduled
to continue until Friday, that the class action should not be certified
because the group being suggested is "too broad."
"There's no common ground," she said in an interview
In Knight's claim, he asks for the class to include
all "persons who made purchases in British Columbia of 'light' and 'mild'
cigarettes manufactured, sold and/or distributed by" Imperial Tobacco.
Dona also said her company has issued what's called a
"third- party notice" to the government of Canada, effectively suing it in
turn as a result of the claim.
In that notice, Imperial Tobacco says it began
producing light and mild cigarettes decades ago to comply with a request
from the federal government. It says the government made the request despite
the fact that, as early as 1970, health department officials were warned the
"light" cigarettes may offer no health benefit.
Paul Vickery, a lawyer for the government, said he
will argue this week that Knight's action should not be certified,
"primarily because it involves some overreaching in terms of the act's
Outside court, Vickery said the class is too broadly
defined, covers too long a time period and too much has changed over the
period in question.
He cautioned, however, that it would be wrong to
suggest the government is aligning itself with big tobacco.
"Our interests may appear common to some degree at
this point because we are both looking at the question of whether this
proposed class action is appropriately brought as a class action, but it is
only at this point of the action that that is the case," he said.
"We oppose the use of light and mild descriptors by
tobacco companies, we've continually warned of the dangers of cigarette
smoking in general and our position remains constant in that regard," he
"It's fundamentally a procedural objection to the
nature of the class action that is being proposed."
Indexing (document details) People: Klein, David,
Knight, Kenneth Companies: Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd Author(s): Jonathan
Fowlie Document types: Business Section: WestCoast News Publication title:
The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, B.C.: Oct 26, 2004. pg. B.7 Source type:
Newspaper ISSN: 08321299 ProQuest document ID: 727597681 Text Word Count 698
Supreme Court certifies class action suit against Imperial Tobacco
Joyce, Greg. Canadian Press NewsWire.
VANCOUVER (CP) - The B.C. Supreme Court certified a
class action suit against Imperial Tobacco on Tuesday over its marketing of
cigarettes labelled "mild" or "light."
The decision was described as a legal breakthrough in
Canada by an anti-smoking activist.
The plaintiff, Kenneth Knight, alleges the marketing
of these cigarettes was deceptive because it suggested they are less harmful
than regular ones.
Another court date sometime in the future will
determine who can join Knight in the class action.
"This is the first class action suit ever in Canada
to be certified (against a tobacco company)," said Cynthia Callard, the
executive-director of Ottawa-based Physicians for Smoke-Free Canada.
Knight alleged in his statement of claim that light
or mild cigarettes are not less harmful than regular cigarettes and they do
not significantly reduce toxic emissions.
The class action seeks general and punitive damages
and an injunction against marketing such cigarettes.
Imperial Tobacco, based in Montreal, said it will
appeal the class action certification, arguing in part the federal
government encouraged tobacco companies to develop and promote low-tar
Imperial spokeswoman Christina Dona called the
lawsuit a copycat suit - an opportunistic attempt to cash in on
American-style litigation that doesn't reflect the Canadian reality.
In her judgment, Justice Deborah Satanove said
Knight's claim "is not the usual type of claim against cigarette
manufacturers, nor is it the type of products liability claim this court is
usually asked to certify as a class action."
"Although the claim arises from health concerns, it
does not seek compensation for personal injury. It is a claim for pure
She noted that the plaintiff was not seeking damages
for each class member, but "rather an aggregate damage award that may be
distributed in whole or in part to charitable institutions involved in
researching and treating illnesses related to smoking."
The judge said the plaintiff alleges that Imperial
Tobacco developed light or mild cigarettes as a result of studies that
showed cigarette smoking was harmful to health.
"The basis of liability alleged by the plaintiff is
that the defendant engaged in numerous deceptive acts or practices in the
solicitation, offer, advertisement and promotion of cigarettes, contrary to
provision of the Trade Practice Act."
In its statement, Imperial Tobacco said the decision
is only a certification and not a judgment of liability.
The company also named the federal government as a
third party in the suit, arguing that it instigated and authorized the
development of lower-tar tobacco products.
The federal government encouraged Canadian tobacco
manufacturers to develop, manufacture, sell and promote low-tar cigarettes
in Canada, the tobacco company said.
The federal government also opposed the certification
of the class action, said Callard.
"Health Canada does not want to be found liable," she
"The company said the federal government made us make
them so the federal government should pay if there are any damages."
The defendant tobacco company, said the judge,
opposed the certification because "the plaintiff has no cause of action
without proof of causation and reliance with respect to each individual
member of the class."
The company and the federal government both took the
position opposing certification because the proposed class "is overly broad
and unmanageable," said the judge.
But the judge disagreed, saying that their
submissions failed to understand the nature of the plaintiff's claim, "which
is to obtain the disgorgement of revenues and profits earned by the
defendant through the alleged deceptive marketing of the product."
Callard also noted the uniqueness of the allegations
and remedy sought.
"It's not about money (for health damage)," she said.
"He (Knight) wants the company to pay and to stop doing this deceptive
Indexing (document details) Subjects: Crime, Social
problems, Health, Litigation Classification Codes 9172 Companies: Imperial
Tobacco Canada Ltd. Author(s): Joyce, Greg Document types: News Publication
title: Canadian Press NewsWire. Toronto: Feb 8, 2005. Source type:
Periodical ProQuest document ID: 791685151 Text Word Count 608
"They have not taken action on it. Their failure to
take action on it appears to have lead to many, many hundreds of fatal
The cigarette companies did not comment on the suit.
Indexing (document details) Subjects: Fire
protection, Cigarettes, Production, Tobacco industry, Litigation
Classification Codes 9172 People: Ragoonanan, Ravena Publication title:
Canadian Press NewsWire. Toronto: Jan 11, 2000. Source type: Periodical
ProQuest document ID: 385258751 Text Word Count 241