It's time to recover billons of lost health care dollars

    Alberta, Ontario need to lead remaining provinces in tobacco industry

    EDMONTON, Oct. 3 /CNW/ - Delegates at the 5th National Conference on
Tobacco or Health are urging provinces to sue tobacco companies and recover
billions in lost health care dollars.
    A discussion held today focused on litigation as a major strategy for
tobacco control. During the session, law students debated new litigation
opportunities and highlighted successes. Attendees also learned about the
Campaign for Justice on Tobacco Fraud that was launched in Ontario last year
to hold the tobacco industry accountable for decades of misinformation and
deception. The campaign was endorsed by more than 100 health experts.
    "British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and
Saskatchewan have all taken steps to sue tobacco manufacturers," said Michael
Perley, director, Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco. "Canadians need to
let government know that they must be accountable in recovering these costs."
    In the U.S.A., negotiated settlements by 50 states totaled more than
$245 billion (US) over 25 years for virtually the same wrongs that British
Columbia alleges took place in Canada. In Minnesota in 1998, the tobacco
industry settled for $6.3 billion (US) for similar issues raised by Ontarians.
The Ontario government previously estimated that Ontario is entitled to more
than $40 billion (US) in health care dollars.
    "The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the B.C. law that provinces can seek
damages to recover health care costs dating back five decades and future costs
for smoking-related illnesses," continued Perley. "Five other provinces joined
the fight for reparations and we continue to urge the rest of Canada to follow
suit and end the biggest rip-off of our health care systems."
    While the potential for a long, expensive court battle is often cited as
a reason not to sue tobacco firms, passing reforms similar British Columbia's
Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs would address this problem. The key
points include:

    -   Allowing a government to use statistical evidence at trial, rather
        then individual medical files for every smoker, to prove damages
        caused by tobacco industry products;

    -   Life limitation periods to allow a government to seek justice for
        tobacco fraud that dates back to the 1950's, and;

    -   Reversing the burden of proof related to the impact of past
        violations of a manufacturer's duty to warn.

    "The tobacco companies claim that government lawsuits should not be filed
because they already collect tobacco taxes," said Rob Cunningham, senior
policy analyst, Canadian Cancer Society. "However, it is consumers who pay
these taxes, not tobacco companies. Moreover, if an oil company has a major
spill, they do not escape financial responsibility because their product is
already taxed. Nor should tobacco companies skirt responsibility to refund
health care costs due to their wrongful behaviour."
    Tobacco use is the largest cause of preventable death and disease and one
of the biggest strains on health care systems across Canada. For more
information, please visit the conference website at

For further information:

For further information: Media Contacts: Matt Drennan-Scace,
Communications, National Conference on Tobacco or Health, (416) 951-7956;
Stuart Adams, Communications Consultant, National Conference on Tobacco or
Health, (780) 995-0156

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National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTH)

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