Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco

Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco

November 02, 2005 10:23 ET

Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco: Health Agencies Urge Ontario Government To Sue Big Tobacco

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 2, 2005) - In an October 31 letter, Ontario health agencies have urged Premier McGuinty to adopt legislation allowing the Ontario Government to sue the tobacco industry for smoking-related health care costs. The letter (attached) follows the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision upholding the constitutionality of British Columbia's Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, allowing that government to proceed with a lawsuit against Big Tobacco.

Since then, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have announced they will enact similar legislation. Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick have said they are also considering action.

"The clear message from the Supreme Court's decision is that provinces can recoup health care expenditures incurred due to the tobacco industry's rejection of what its own data told it about the health impacts of its products, beginning many years ago," said Rocco Rossi, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. "We will strongly support the Premier and his government in taking an action, which is long overdue and well-justified."

"Tobacco industry documents now publicly available clearly demonstrate the industry's long-standing efforts to deceive both the public and lawmakers concerning the health impacts of their products, impacts which the industry's own research began to identify in the early 1950s," said Dr. Ted Boadway, Executive Director - Health Policy of the Ontario Medical Association. "We believe these documents provide a strong rationale for a cost recovery lawsuit, and the Supreme Court's decision paves the way for legislation to enable it."

"Direct health care costs in Ontario due to the use of tobacco industry products since the mid-1950s are staggering," said Peter Goodhand, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society - Ontario Division. "It is clear that the health care price tag incurred from the use of the industry's products during the past several decades will certainly amount to tens of billions of dollars."

"Huge claims from litigation could force the industry to negotiate a settlement with government," said Gar Mahood, Executive Director of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association. "This settlement could include major concessions with respect to the industry's marketing, including provisions that would penalize the industry if youth are not blocked from joining the market."

"Direct health care costs are not the only costs borne in the Province of Ontario from the use of tobacco industry products," said Manu Malkani, President of the Ontario Lung Association. "Tobacco use imposes other non-health care costs - including foregone income and lost productivity - which must be borne by employers and businesses across the province."

"In short, we believe a strong rationale exists for proceeding with this litigation," said Michael Perley, Director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco. "The industry must be held to account for its decades of deception, misleading statements, misdirection of governments and its own clients, and behaviour more appropriate to a rogue industry than a mainstream business enterprise."

Signatories to the letter (attached) include Mr. Rossi, Mr. Goodhand, Mr. Malkani, Dr. Boadway, Mr. Mahood and Mr. Perley. The letter has also been forwarded to all members of the Ontario Cabinet.

The Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco is a coalition of provincial health agencies that have been working together since the early '90s in support of the implementation of effective tobacco control policies in the province of Ontario.



31 October, 2005


Hon. Dalton McGuinty Premier of Ontario
Room 281
Legislative Building Queen's Park Toronto, ON
M7A 1A1


Dear Premier McGuinty:

Re: Healthcare costs recovery litigation vs. the tobacco industry

Following the Supreme Court of Canada's decision upholding the
constitutionality of the British Columbia Tobacco Damages and Health
Care Costs Recovery Act, we are writing today to strongly encourage
you to enact similar legislation in Ontario and begin a health care
cost recovery lawsuit against the tobacco industry in this province.

We know you are well aware of the terrible toll of disease, death and
costs imposed on the province by tobacco industry products, and it is
not our purpose today to review these statistics. We instead would
like to make clear that you have the strong backing of our
associations to launch such a lawsuit, for reasons related both to
the industry's longstanding pattern of behaviour and to the toll
exacted by the use of its products.

Tobacco industry documents from both the United States and Canada
which are now publicly available, clearly demonstrate a long-standing
industry campaign, beginning in the mid-1950s, to deceive both the
public and lawmakers concerning the health impacts of tobacco
industry products, impacts which the industry's own research began to
identify in the early 1950s. The production of industry documents
that would follow litigation will educate the media and public about
the industry's predatory behaviour during this campaign, and that, in
turn, would help create public support for further strong tobacco
control policy initiatives.

We will not review the entire history of the industry's campaign
today, but would be pleased to discuss it, and why it is such a
strong rationale for a cost recovery lawsuit, with you and your
officials at an appropriate time.

The order of magnitude of direct health care costs incurred by the
province of Ontario due to the use of tobacco industry products since
the mid-1950s is truly staggering. Taking just the most recent
economic calculations in this regard, we note that in 1992, direct
annual health care costs in this province from tobacco-induced
disease amounted to approximately $1.1 million. Earlier this year,
Health Minster Smitherman noted that these costs were now estimated
to be approximately $1.7 billion dollars annually. While it is also
not our purpose today to suggest an appropriate target amount for
litigation or a settlement, it is clear that the health care price
tag incurred from use of tobacco industry products during the past
several decades will certainly amount to tens of billions of dollars.

We also note that huge claims from litigation could force the
industry to negotiate a settlement with government and make major
concessions, otherwise difficult to achieve, with respect to their
marketing, including look-back provisions that would penalize the
industry if youth are not blocked from joining the market.

Those who oppose this type of litigation and support the tobacco
industry often state that tobacco taxes have frequently equalled or
exceeded direct health care costs on an annualized basis, and there
should be no further recourse to the industry. This statement does
not take into account the fact that the indirect costs to the
province of Ontario from tobacco use - including foregone income and
lost productivity - often impose other, non-health care costs on the
government which it must make up from tax revenues, including those
placed on tobacco industry products. As well, payment of taxes, for
any individual or business, does not and should not buy immunity from
litigation in the face of civil or criminal misbehaviour.

In short, we believe a strong rationale exists for proceeding with
this litigation, and for holding the industry to account for its
decades of deception, misleading statements, misdirection of
government and its own clients, and behaviour more appropriate to a
rogue industry than a mainstream business enterprise.

Let us once again reiterate our strong encouragement to you to
proceed with this litigation, and to offer our support and assistance
in any way you deem appropriate.

We look forward to your decision on this matter in due course, and
would be pleased to supply any further information you may require.

Yours very truly,
ONTARIO CAMPAIGN FOR ACTION ON TOBACCO


Rocco Rossi Peter Goodhand
CEO CEO
Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Cancer Society -
of Ontario Ontario Division


Manu Malkani Dr. Ted Boadway
President Executive Director
Ontario Lung Association Health Policy, Ontario Medical
Association


Garfield Mahood Michael Perley
Executive Director Director
Non-Smokers' Rights Ontario Campaign for
Association Action on Tobacco


cc: Members of the Ontario Cabinet

Gerald Butts, Policy Secretary, Office of the Premier
Jamison Steeve, Special Assistant, Health Policy, Policy and
Research, Office of the Premier
Aaron Dobbin, Special Assistant, Finance & Economic Policy,
Policy and Research, Office of the Premier
Dr. Sheela Basrur, Chief Medical Officer of Health & Assistant
Deputy Minister, Public Health Division
Rowena Pinto, Public Issues Manager, Canadian Cancer Society -
Ontario Division
Sylvia Leonard, Director, Cancer Control, Canadian Cancer Society
- Ontario Division
Justin Brown, Manager, Government Relations, Heart and Stroke
Foundation of Ontario
Lorraine Fry, General Manager, Non-Smokers' Rights Association
Carol Jacobson, Director, Health Policy, Ontario Medical
Association
Ratsamy Pathammavong, Tobacco Control Manager, Ontario Lung
Association



Contact Information

  • Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco
    Michael Perley
    day: (416) 340-2992
    cell: (416) 709-9075