Sparkes v. Imperial Tobacco

 July 20, 2004
Newfoundland lawyer Ches Crosbie, files a  class-action lawsuit against tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco, claiming the Montreal-based company deceived its customers in its marketing of 'light' and 'mild' cigarettes.

The suit is filed on behalf of Victor Sparkes of Conception Bay South, Nfld. The suit is modeled on the B.C. "knight" case and is based on  Newfoundland's Trade Practices Act, which provides remedies for  deceptive trade practices. The suit seeks refunds for money made from the sales of 'light' and 'mild' cigarettes since their introduction in the 1970s.

29 November 2004
The Statement of Claim is amended

20 January 2006
Imperial Tobacco notifies the government of Canada that it is being named as a third party to the suit.

27 June 2006
Application for certification

29 December 2008
Certification Denied

Media Coverage


Class-action lawsuit filed in Nfld. takes aim at Canadian tobacco company
Canadian Press NewsWire. Toronto: Jul 20, 2004.

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - A Newfoundland law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco, claiming the Montreal-based company deceived its customers in its marketing for light and mild cigarettes.

"It's on behalf of all those people who, in the belief that light cigarettes were a more healthful alternative, smoked light cigarettes anywhere in the last 30 years or so," lawyer Ches Crosbie said Tuesday.

The lawsuit, which is similar to one filed last year in British Columbia, isn't seeking compensation for people who suffered health problems due to smoking.

Instead, the suit is based on Newfoundland's Trade Practices Act, a statute enacted in the 1970s as part of pro-consumer reforms.

"We're saying it was a deceptive trade practice and forbidden by the act," said Crosbie.

The suit will seek the refund of money made from the sales of light and mild cigarettes since their introduction in the 1970s.

Crosbie said hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.

Christina Dona, an Imperial Tobacco spokesperson in Montreal, dismissed the court action as unfounded and frivolous.

"We view this particular suit as a copy-cat suit, an opportunistic attempt to cash in on American-style litigation and it in no way reflects the Canadian reality," she said.

Dona said the federal government is responsible for instigating and authorizing the development of lower tar tobacco products.

"Up until last year the federal government was encouraging smokers that if you can't quit, then switch to lighter, lower tar delivered products."

Kevin Coady, head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, said statistics indicate some smokers would have quit years ago, but switched instead from regular cigarettes to light brands thinking they would be less harmful.

"Clearly this is a case of deception," said Coady. "There's an obvious perception if you put the word light on anything."

Crosbie filed the suit two weeks ago in Newfoundland Supreme Court on behalf of Victor Sparkes of Conception Bay South, Nfld.

Sparkes, a former smoker who kicked the habit four years ago, said he hasn't developed any obvious illnesses as a result of 15 years of smoking.

He said he smoked light cigarettes because he believed it could delay the onset of smoking-related illnesses.

Last year, an Illinois court ordered U.S. tobacco giant Phillip Morris to pay $10.1 billion US to one million smokers.

A judge ruled the company violated the state's consumer fraud laws in the way it marketed its light brands of cigarettes.

That decision is currently under appeal. A final ruling is expected by the end of the year.

Crosbie said the next step will be a certification hearing before the Newfoundland Supreme Court. A date for that hearing has not been set.

He said he expects there will be an appeal by one side or the other no matter what the result of the hearing.

If the lawsuit is approved by the court, Crosbie said it could take up to five years before a ruling is made.

Dr. Susan King, past president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, said there's no such thing as a safe cigarette. "We know that in Newfoundland and Labrador, we lose about 1,000 people a year who are smokers," she told a news conference Tuesday.





Litigation sub-site home


Timeline of tobacco litigation 




Class Actions - current

Blais & Letourneau



Class Action - historic






Private litigation - current



Private litigation - historic






Government Litigation-current and historic



British Columbia


New Brunswick