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.
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.
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.
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 CBC.com 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.
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.
This is roughly a 3,000-foot climb (in less than 5 miles, so it is very steep) from the shore of Lake Louise to the top of Mount St. Piran, one of two relatively easy scrambles on either shore of Lake Louise. On the south shore is Fairview Mountain, which I climbed three years ago. On the north shore is Mount St. Piran, which I had twice tried to climb before but got pushed down by horrendous weather. Last year, I tried to climb it, winds at the top were at least 50 to 60 miles an hour and thunder and lightning were crashing through the whole Lake Louise basin. I figured if exposure didn’t get me, the lightning would and had to turn back.
This latest trip didn’t appear particularly promising, either. Upon arrival, it was cold, rainy and when the top of Mount St. Piran did appear every once in a great while through breaks in the dark clouds, you could see a dusting of snow on top. There wasn’t much to do at all that whole day because the weather was so crummy other than drive down to Banff and catch a matinee of the new Batman movie.
The weather tends to be crummy at Lake Louise quite a bit because of both its elevation — 5,700 feet — and a notch in the Continental Divide just west of the lake that tends to funnel a lot of weather systems right through that area. I’ve seen beautiful weather in Canmore and Radium Hot Springs, but then the weather all goes to hell as soon as you get to Lake Louise. You really have to pick your spots with the weather here and take advantage when you can.
The next day, dawn broke without a cloud in the sky and I realized this was my chance — FINALLY.
One good thing about an early start. This is a very busy area of Banff, with visitors from all around the world converging on Lake Louise. The trail gets very, very crowded by mid-morning, especially on the section between Lake Louise and the Lake Agnes teahouse. I found that if you start at 7:30 a.m., you will miss the crowds. Not a single other person was on the trail on the way up.
You take the trail to the famous Lake Agnes teahouse, which is where most hikers stop. Some go to the Little Beehive or even the Big Beehive, but only a handful make the little-known trek up to Mount St. Piran. All of the trail signs around the area do not show a trail to the top of this mountain; I only heard about it by reading some guide to scrambles in the Canadian Rockies.
To get to the St. Piran route, you take the trail from the Lake Agnes teahouse east to the Little Beehive (the more spectacular Big Beehive lies west). About two-thirds of the way to the Little Beehive, perhaps 500 meters from Lake Agnes, is a nondescript sign for the Mount St. Piran trail. Mount St. Piran has actually been scratched off the sign. I knew this had to be the trail, but it still gave me a bit of misgiving that the name was scratched off. Was that a message not to head up the trail? Maybe it had washed out.
The trail switchbacks several times up the steep slope of Mount St. Piran, and you get ever more spectacular views of Lake Louise, the Big Beehive, the Fairmont Chateau and Fairview Mountain to the south of the lake. At this point, clouds began rolling in, but I was still counting my lucky stars that any sort of actual weather was holding off.
Finally, you reach a saddle between two subpeaks. It’s a quick, easy walk to the lower subpeak, which gives you some fantastic views of the Bow Valley nearly 4,000 feet below.
I was slightly spooked by the route to the upper peak. As you hike up the switchbacks, the two peaks appear to be of a similar elevation, but as you get to the lower summit, you realize the upper summit is still another two hundred to three hundred feet higher. And the trail appears to peter out in the rocks and boulders pretty quickly.
I talked myself into trying it, not really feeling I was prepared for a scramble of 200 to 300 vertical feet over boulders with some fairly intimidating-looking exposure. But, it turns out there continues to be a very steep, primitive trail twisting back and forth through the rocks. It’s just plain invisible from below. There is one slightly spooky spot where you make a 90-degree turn on a pitch with extreme exposure 4,000 feet straight down to the north, but other than that, it wasn’t difficult at all.
Mount St. Piran in every book I’ve read about it is classified as a “scramble,” but frankly, I wouldn’t call it a scramble, with a primitive trail going most of the way to the top. The trail eventually does vanish, but at that point, you are probably less than 50 feet below the summit and it’s an easy horizontal walk through boulders on the wide and round summit.
Up at the top, you have to walk to the edge of the domed summit to get views of Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau. You do get some spectacular views from the top of 9,000- and 10,000-foot peaks — Fairview Mountain, Mount Victoria, Mount Lefroy, Mount Aberdeen, and The Mitre. There is also a pair of massive glaciers, Victoria and Lefroy, that you look down on. In an hour at the summit, the weather continued to hold (it did go all to pieces late in the afternoon), and the sun briefly made an appearance.
There is also wildlife up there. A pair squirrels scurried through the rocks, eating wildflowers and I saw two hoary marmots near the top.
The mountain gets a little busier in the afternoon — about a dozen people were slogging their way up the side of the mountain after noon . The Lake Agnes teahouse is a great place to stop for lunch after all your hard work. The bread is all homemade and they make a mean tuna salad sandwich.
On the way down from Lake Agnes, you realize how important it is to get an early start if you want to enjoy a “wilderness” experience. There were hundreds of hikers going both up and down the Lake Agnes trail, speaking languages from around the globe (It is funny to see European visitors hiking up to Lake Agnes, a not-to-be-taken-lightly 1,400-foot elevation gain, in dress flats and Italian loafers.).