Quebec plans suit vs. tobacco companies: report

Mon Oct 5, 2009 6:35pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Quebec plans to file a lawsuit against tobacco companies to seek damages for the cost of treating tobacco-related diseases.

Quebec would become the fourth of Canada's 10 provinces to sue the country's tobacco manufacturers, which are units of foreign tobacco makers, including Philip Morris International Inc, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco Inc.

Just last week the neighboring province of Ontario announced a C$50 billion ($46.7 billion) suit against Big Tobacco.

A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd, Canada's leading tobacco company and a wholly owned unit of British American Tobacco, said the latest lawsuit is a hypocritical reaction from a government that licenses the industry.

"The government in Canada, including the government of Quebec, is a senior partner of this for many decades -- they have been for more than 50 years -- and they have been aware of the risks associated with tobacco for more than 50 years," spokesman Eric Gagnon said.

"It's sheer hypocrisy by the government of Quebec when we know that (they) ... are the ones issuing licenses to sell the tobacco product. They are the ones legislating the industry," he said.

Provincial Health Minister Yves Bolduc said Quebec, which has a smaller population than Ontario, could seek an amount that is proportionate to the C$50 billion Ontario lawsuit, according to a report on Monday by French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada.

Radio-Canada -- which said Quebec would formally file the suit in January -- calculated the amount the province would seek at around C$30 billion.

"Our claim is that information was hidden and this led people to continue to use tobacco products. This had consequences, such as enormous health-care costs that we had to bear," Bolduc said.   Continued...