Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

February 12th, 2010:

Ottawa asks court to rule on smoking suit liability

The Calgary Herald, Janice Tibbetts

12th Feb, 2010

The federal government — which helped tobacco companies develop low-tar cigarettes in the late 1960s — has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to weigh in on a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recoup health costs related to smoking.

The Justice Department is seeking leave to appeal a December court ruling in the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which exposed the federal government to potential liability by concluding it should be a third-party defendant in the suit, launched by the B.C. government.

The trial, expected to begin next year, is the first of several legal challenges nationwide in which provinces are seeking to recover health costs.

Tobacco manufacturers maintain the government should share responsibility for health costs because Agriculture Canada conducted its own research while regulating the industry, knew of international studies linking smoking and lung cancer, and nonetheless encouraged and aided the industry in developing light and mild brands.

“The fact of the matter is that the federal government is a senior partner in the tobacco industry,” said Eric Gagnon, a spokesman for Imperial Tobacco, one of the manufacturers named in the suit.

“We believe it is important for the government to answer, as the tobacco industry will, on its involvement in the development of the industry in Canada.”

The B.C. decision could open up the government to responsibility in other suits against the tobacco industry filed in Ontario and New Brunswick, and pending actions in Quebec and Manitoba.

Smokers light up in protest at tobacco tax rise plan

Ng Yuk-hang
Feb 12, 2010

Smokers lit up outside the government headquarters yesterday in protest against a proposed tobacco tax increase, saying the tax was a further erosion of their freedoms.

They also claimed that second-hand smoke does not kill, a point which was flatly rejected by a health professional.

Ten members of the I Smoke Alliance marched to the Central Government Offices in a bid to persuade Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah not to raise the tobacco tax further when he delivers his budget on February 24.

Surrounded by policemen, they puffed away outside the government headquarters, which bans smoking throughout its entire premises except in some designated outdoor areas.

“A packet of cigarettes is already very expensive for us, and a large part of the money goes to the government,” convenor Lee Mer said.

She said with a smoking ban which now covers almost all indoor areas in Hong Kong, smokers could only puff away in “hidden corners”, impinging on their right to smoke.

“People see us as terrorists these days, they avoid us whenever they see us smoking,” she said, adding that there was no evidence that second-hand smoke could kill. “Even if it does, people don’t die immediately, unlike in car accidents caused by drink-driving.”

She said the government should instead heavily tax alcohol consumption. Smoking was a way to relax and people should respect smokers.

But University of Hong Kong chair professor of community medicine Anthony Hedley said the group’s argument was “misinformed”.

“If they care to look at worldwide evidence, they should know that the lethality of second-hand smoke is indisputable.”

He said while the group was correct that alcohol tax should be levied to discourage drink-driving, it was irrelevant to the issue of smoking control. Tobacco tax should be further increased to deter smokers, especially the young, from smoking.

“It is impossible to create an environment for people to smoke without harming others. Freedom to smoke does not equate to freedom to harm other people.”

He said cigarettes were still too cheap compared with the health-care costs that resulted from smoking and second-hand smoke.

The smokers’ alliance was formed two months ago, Lee said. Its Facebook website showed that it had about 400 supporters.

Levin Papantonio Law Firm Announces Tobacco Verdict: R.J. Reynolds Should Pay Damages to Florida Family

Press Release: Gray v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co

12 Feb, 2010

PENSACOLA, Fla., Feb. 12, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — In a release issued earlier today by Levin Papantonio Law Firm, please note that in the headline, $9.2M should have been US$9M. In addition, the punitive damages as stated in the first paragraph should be $2 million, not $2.2 million, as originally stated and the client’s first name as stated in the 6th paragraph should be Hilde, not Hilda. The corrected release follows:

Plaintiff Carolyn Gray sued R.J. Reynolds and a jury has now returned a verdict of $7 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages related to the death of her husband, Charles Gray.

According to Matt Schultz of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas Mitchell Echsner & Proctor, P.A., Charles Gray began smoking at the age of 11 or 12 in the late 1940s, and was addicted to Camel cigarettes by age 15. Mr. Gray died from lung cancer at the age of 59 in 1994, after having switched to Winston cigarettes for the last 40 years of his life. The tobacco company R.J. Reynolds manufactures both the Camel and Winston brands.

After an extended trial in which Schultz and Pensacola attorney Robert Loehr represented the plaintiff, the jury ruled that the company was 60 percent at fault for Mr. Gray’s death, while he was himself 40 percent at fault. The jury further found that Mr. Gray relied on R.J. Reynolds’ fraudulent representations that concealed the full extent of the dangers of smoking and that the company’s conspiracy to commit fraud was a legal cause of his death. The plaintiff, according to Schultz, admitted some fault on the part of Mr. Gray from the very beginning of the case. While such findings often reduce jury awards in Florida, the jury findings of intentional wrongdoing would dictate that the award should not be reduced, a point that R.J. Reynolds is expected to contest.

The result in the Gray case is the second jury verdict for Schultz and Loehr against a tobacco company in less than a year, and further trials are planned for later in 2010. Last June, a different jury awarded $30 million to Hilde Martin, a Florida widow whose husband died of lung cancer in 1995. “We are prepared to try every case, one at a time, and we fully expect the jury findings to be consistent with the law and the evidence presented in each case,” Loehr said.

The Florida law firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, P.A is representing a number of tobacco plaintiffs following the 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision in the Engle v. R.J. Reynolds, a ruling that overturned a $145 billion verdict in a large class action accusing the tobacco companies of conspiring to cover up the dangers of smoking. The Engle Court also declined to revive the class action status of that lawsuit, but did allow individual lawsuits to go forward.

Hong Kong Tobacco boss Ho Tsu Kwok’s brother arrested

By NEAL HALL, Vancouver Sun

February 12, 2010

VANCOUVER – Vancouver billionaire David Ho set a trial date for next year on charges of unlawful confinement of a woman and possessing a loaded handgun and illegal drugs.

His lawyer, Len Doust, appeared in Vancouver provincial court and entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client and electing a trial by provincial court judge.

Five days have been set aside beginning on Feb. 9, 2011, for the trial, which will hear from 13 witnesses, the court was told by prosecutor Greg Weber.

Ho, 57, is facing trial on eight criminal counts. He was charged last year for an alleged incident that occurred on Dec,. 28, 2008.

Police alleged that Ho contacted a woman over a telephone chat line who went to his $5-million mansion at 7190 Hudson St. But when the woman tried to leave at about 4:45 a.m., Ho allegedly prevented her from leaving.

A violent struggle allegedly ensued and the woman called 911, but she didn’t know the address, police alleged. She managed to get away but fractured her ankle and suffered other minor injuries, police said.

Neighbours called 911 after hearing her screams.

Ho, who owns the high-end auto dealership MCL Motor Cars and the now-defunct Harmony airline, was later charged with unlawful confinement, possession of a loaded 9mm Glock pistol, which was illegally stored, and possession of cocaine and marijuana.

He was born in China and is an heir to the Hong Kong Tobacco Co. fortune. He holds passports to several countries and was in Shanghai when charged, but returned to Canada and has been released on $100,000 bail..

Ho, whose full name is Ting Kwok David Ho, is a longtime Liberal supporter who donated $100,000 to the provincial Liberals since 2005 and is a former member of the Vancouver police board.

In 2007, Ho had been stopped by police while driving his Porsche in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with two sex-trade workers and a quantity of cocaine in the vehicle. But he was never charged.

Tobacco heir Patrick Reynolds steps up anti-smoking campaign

The Survivors Club Staff
February 12, 2010

Patrick Reynolds, whose grandfather founded the cigarette company R.J. Reynolds, was a smoker for 10 years before quitting. He also lost numerous family members, including his father, oldest brother and aunt, to cigarette-induced emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer.

Those dramatic experiences led him to not only quit for his own sake, but to become an outspoken anti-smoking activist in order to inspire others to fight tobacco addition.

As such, Reynolds, who serves as president of the Foundation for a Smokefree America, recently delivered a keynote speech at Saint Francis Hospital as part of HeartFest 2010, an annual event that includes free health information, physician lectures, a healthy cooking demonstration and free health screenings.

He also took on Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen, who was spotted puffing on the New York set of the show, saying she has “an extra responsibility to bear as an actress idolized by little girls,” and that she “sends the wrong message to kids.”

The American Cancer Society says tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., and that cigarette smoking accounts for about 443,000 deaths, including 49,400 in nonsmokers.

There are a number of methods individuals can use to help them quit, including nicotine patches, chewing gums and psychological counseling. In addition to that, an innovative anti-nicotine vaccine is set to go to Phase III clinical trials.

Survivors struggling with lung problems due to smoking may consult the website of the American Lung Association.