Tobacco companies in the United States have been dealing with legal fireworks for years, but things are finally heating up for the their Canadian brethren. This week a class-action case is scheduled to head to court that could cost the companies “up to $27 billion in damages and penalties at stake,” according to the Canadian Press.
The smokers claim that “they were duped for years by big tobacco companies as they became addicted to cigarettes (and) then suffered from serious health problems,” the CP reports. The three defendants in the case -- Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd.; Rothmans, Benson & Hedges; and JTI-Macdonald – clearly disagree.
The case was born way back in 1998 when two different suits were filed against the companies. They were consolidated in 2005 and will now finally reach the courtroom.
“I’ve tried (to quit) five or six times in the last 14 years,” said Jean-Yves Blais, who still smokes after 57 years of doing so, despite getting part of a lung removed due to cancer, the wire service reports. “I smoke a little more than one package a day — maybe 30 cigarettes a day.”
The allegations are that the companies knew that their products were harmful but didn’t bother to tell consumers, the Press reports, and that they “underestimated evidence relating to the harmful effects of tobacco, … engaged in unscrupulous marketing, and destroyed documents.”
“We don’t want them to mislead the public about the hazards of their products and we also want them to stop misleading the public about the danger of their products (in the future),” said Francois Damphousse of the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association’s Quebec branch, the CP reports.
The companies strongly deny any wrongdoing. “This case is not about whether cigarettes are harmful or addictive, clearly they are,” said Chris Koddermann, director of corporate affairs for RBH, according to the CP. “What this case is about is whether Rothmans, Benson & Hedges misled smokers and former smokers in the province of Quebec about the health risk of smoking and the difficulty of quitting once you begin. We think it’s clear we did not.” Now the court will get to decide.