Lessons from Canada’s 20-year lawsuits against tobacco companies
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Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Publication date: 2020-10-22
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2020;6(Supplement):A95
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Outside of the United States, Canada is the country with the greatest number of lawsuits filed against tobacco companies. Since 2000, each of Canada’s provincial governments has filed for recovery of healthcare costs. Class action lawsuits filed in Quebec resulted in a lower court victory in 2015 and a provincial appeal court victory on 1 March 2019, with the companies jointly ordered to pay more than €9 billion to 100000 Quebec smokers. Soon after, the companies filed for insolvency protection drawing all governments and other litigants into negotiations towards a global settlement. Health interests have been excluded from these discussions, and there is little indication whether or how these suits will serve a public health interest. Other FCTC parties can learn from the Canadian experience on how better to align litigation activities with tobacco control.

To assess the impact of Canada’s tobacco litigation on public health

Analysis of court filings, court proceedings, public statements.

To date, there is no indication that the lawsuits are intended to support tobacco control efforts. Contributing factors may include secrecy of proceedings, lack of involvement of health ministries in key decisions, change of governments, lack of oversight by the media and health charities.

Parties intending to use litigation to support tobacco control efforts should ensure that these objectives are established in the legislation used to enable the suits. Other steps may also be required.

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