Category Archives: Canada

Canadian court orders tobacco companies to immediately set aside $1 billion for class-action suit

Canadian cigarette brands

This story comes out of Quebec. The Quebec Court of Appeal has ordered two tobacco companies — Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans Benson & Hedges — to basically not pussyfoot around and immediately set aside $1 billion Canadian for plaintiffs in a massive class-action lawsuit.

I wrote about this several months ago. These two tobacco companies, plus a third company — JTI Macdonald — lost a $15 billion class-action lawsuit in June for misleading marketing, and for lying about  and covering up the health effects of their cigarettes. The case could benefit up to 1 million Quebec smokers who could cash in on the class-action litigation.  It is by far the biggest court victory against tobacco companies in Canada.

That decision is being appealed as expected. However, in the meantime, the Quebec court ordered two of the three companies to set up a $1 billion fund to immediately start paying out installments to some of the plaintiffs. This prevents the companies from putting off — possibly for several years —  making these class-action payments.

From a CBC News article:

“It is not acceptable that appellants merely say that they have no funds to satisfy the judgment or an order to furnish security and continue to distribute earnings because that is ‘business as usual,'” Court of Appeal Justice Mark Schrager said in his ruling.

“I do not question appellants’ right to appeal but neither can I stand idly by while appellants pursue an appeal which will benefit them if they win but which will not operate to their detriment if they lose.”

From the same article. The tobacco companies are not happy about the ruling. Boo hoo. In a released statement about the court decision:

“Imperial Tobacco Canada … does not believe it should have to secure a payment before all appeals are exhausted and a final judgment is rendered. Imperial Tobacco Canada continues to disagree with the overall judgment rendered by the Superior Court of Quebec. It is unjustified to hold legal manufacturers responsible for the personal choices of adult consumers and it will continue to defend that position as its appeals proceed before the courts.”

Just out of curiosity, I looked into who really owns Imperial Tobacco of Canada, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI Macdonald, because I know there’s really only a handful of major tobacco companies in the whole world.

Sure enough, I was right. Imperial Tobacco is a subsidiary of British America Tobacco, the No. 2 tobacco company in the world. Rothmans Benson & Hedges is a subsidiary of Philip Morris, the No. 1 tobacco company in the world, and JTI Macdonald is part of Japan Tobacco, which bought out many of the RJ Reynolds brands such as Camel outside of the U.S. and is the No. 3 tobacco company in the world. I swear, it comes down to a handful of worldwide companies, it really does.


Ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “Marijuana is infinitely more dangerous than tobacco”

canada-buds (1)

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a couple of weeks ago during the Canadian election campaign that he opposes legalizing marijuana, adding, “marijuana is infinitely more dangerous than tobacco.”

Well, that one statement all by itself is a good example of how Harper was — and I’m sure continues to be — sadly out of touch with reality. And one of the reasons he is the EX Prime Minister of Canada. Harper added that “There’s just overwhelming and growing scientific and medical evidence about the bad long-term effects of marijuana.” He didn’t provide any examples of this “evidence.” The fact is, most of the studies out there show little evidence about the bad long-term effects of marijuana.

“Beer is perfectly fine. It’s COMPLETELY different from marijuana.”

Incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to legalize pot as part of his campaign. From what I’ve seen on the streets of Vancouver, I find it hard to believe pot is illegal there, but it is in fact, still illegal in Canada.

I don’t want to turn this blog into a pot advocacy blog, but I did want to address the sheer inanity of Harper’s boneheaded comment. Stephen, I really wish I could email you this post, you knucklehead. Here are the facts about pot and tobacco:

Deaths caused by tobacco in the U.S. each year: 440,000

Known deaths caused by pot in the U.S. each year: 0

Number of pot overdoses each year: 0

Number of people physically addicted to pot each year: 0

Wow, tell me again, Stephen, how pot is infinitely worse than tobacco?

The fact is, most studies that have been done on marijuana show no link between pot and lung cancer and no link between pot and COPD. The second bit surprises me, but I can’t argue with what studies have shown. The only studies showing a link between lung disease and pot are some that have shown that combining both pot and tobacco increases the risk of COPD more than just smoking cigarettes alone . Other studies completely contradict that conclusion. But, no study shows a hard link between pot alone and COPD.

I’m not a huge marijuana advocate, but I found Harper’s rhetoric really alarming and clueless, because I think it utterly downplays the shocking damage done to society by cigarette smoking. Not just deaths, but loss of quality of life because of the myriad other diseases we now know are tied to smoking — arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc. Cigarettes do more than kill people. They suck the quality out of people’s lives, too. The other interesting thing about Stephen Harper. When I went to Google images of him to get a mugshot, I found a LOT of photos of him drinking beer. He apparently really likes beer. But, beer is completely harmless in his little world, I guess — never mind the fact that alcohol kills at least 100,000 people every year in the U.S.

I personally don’t think pot is 100 percent, completely harmless; I’ve had some knock-down, drag-out arguments with pot advocates over that claim. I also don’t believe it is a miracle cure for every disease on the planet. Again, I’ve had heated arguments over some of the claims of its medical benefits, which I think some advocates tend to exaggerate. But, I would argue the biggest damage done by marijuana is the fact that it is illegal and people have had their lives ruined because of all the legal problems they have been forced to deal with, including real prison time, simply for possessing, using or growing pot because of antiquated laws that keep it illegal when tobacco and alcohol both cause far more addiction problems and death and damage to our society. Especially minorities. There’s black people in the South doing 5-10 years in prison for simple possession. There’s some real damage there.

So, good on you, Canada and good luck legalizing it.

Quebec court: Tobacco companies must pay $15 billion in damages to as many as 1 million people


Big story out of Canada! Thanks very much to my friend Classical Gas for the tip.

A court in Quebec today ordered three Canadian tobacco companies — Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald — to pay $15 billion Canadian for “moral” and “punitive” damages.

This lawsuit began way back in 2012, but the roots of it go back much further.

From a story:

“It’s a big day for victims of tobacco, who have been waiting for about 17 years for this decision. It was a long process — but arrived at the destination and it’s a big victory,” said Mario Bujold, executive director of the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health.

The plaintiffs are a number of people who were sickened by smoking and/or their families. The groups alleged that Canadian tobacco companies:

  • Failed to properly warn their customers about the dangers of smoking.
  • Underestimated evidence relating to the harmful effects of tobacco.
  • Engaged in unscrupulous marketing.
  • Destroyed documents.

    Lise Blais holds up a photograph of her husband, Jean-Yves Blais, who died from lung cancer after launching one of the two lawsuits, during a news conference on Monday in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

I’m not clear just how many plaintiffs there are (this sounds something like the Engle class action lawsuit in Florida), but according to the CBC, possibly as many as 1 million smokers and former smokers in Quebec will receive varying settlements. Here is the breakdown:

The plaintiffs with cancer who began smoking before January 1976 will get $100,000 each. Those who first lit up after that date are entitled to $90,000.

Those with emphysema will receive $30,000 in moral damages if they began smoking before Jan. 1, 1976, and $24,000 if they started smoking after that date.

For the almost one million Quebec smokers who were unable to quit, the breakdown comes out to about $130 per person.

From a wife of a smoker who died:

“I am so relieved with what has happened,” Lise Blais, whose husband Jean-Yves Blais initiated one of the lawsuits, told a crowd at a news conference.

“Did you stop to think what a cigarette is? It destroys you — your health is totally destroyed,” she said, holding up two photos of her late husband, who died in the summer of 2012 from lung cancer at the age of 68.

The companies plan to appeal. A lawyer for one of the companies made the weaseling comment that since the 1950s, Canadians have known the health danger from cigarettes. Hey, Pro-tip to weasel tobacco lawyer … tobacco lawyers have been trying to use that excuse since the beginning of Time, and for the past 20 years, it hasn’t saved their asses in court. You guys went to considerable time and expense to create doubt in smokers’ minds about the dangers of smoking, and the bill is coming due for your decades of lies and cover-ups.