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Ontario suing Big Tobacco

Ontario has become the latest jurisdiction to take aim at Big Tobacco’swallet, launching a lawsuit to recover smoking-related health costsfrom a beleaguered industry that denounced the action as hypocritical.

Ontario has become the latest jurisdiction to take aim at Big Tobacco’s wallet, launching a lawsuit to recover smoking-related health costs from a beleaguered industry that denounced the action as hypocritical.

The suit, which seeks a jaw-dropping $50 billion from a dozen Canadian firms and their parent companies, follows enabling legislation the province passed earlier this year to the delight of anti-smoking groups.

“That is our view of the costs of health-care related illnesses directly tied to tobacco from 1955 until now,” Attorney General Chris Bentley said of the damages claim.

“We believe that taxpayers should be compensated for the costs that they have paid.”

The claim follows similar actions in British Columbia and New Brunswick, as well as in the United States and abroad. Among those named in the suit is Canada’s largest tobacco manufacturer, Imperial Tobacco Co., a wholly owned unit of British American Tobacco of London that sells cigarettes under such well-known brands as du Maurier and Player’s.

Imperial spokesman Eric Gagnon said the suit came as no surprise given the legislation, but suggested the Ontario government was being hypocritical.

“They’re collecting billions of dollars in taxes, and right now they are turning and suing the tobacco companies,” Gagnon said from Montreal.

Tobacco companies in Canada operate under increasingly stringent legislation that includes, for example, restrictions on the sale of cigarettes to minors, how products can be displayed in stores and bans on advertising.

The government also regulates other products, such as alcohol and casinos, which can pose significant health and safety risks, Gagnon noted.

 
 
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