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Ontario files CAD 50 billion suit versus tobacco companies

The Canadian province of Ontario said Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit seeking CAD 50 billion (USD 45.9 billion) in damages from tobacco companies for healthcare costs incurred by taxpayers since 1955.

In doing so, Ontario became the third of Canada’s ten provinces to sue the country’s tobacco manufacturers, all of which are units of foreign tobacco makers, including Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco. The lawsuit by Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, was planned under legislation passed by its legislature earlier this year, and seeks damages for past and ongoing healthcare costs. Ontario says tobacco use costs the province CAD 1.6 billion a year for healthcare and causes about 13,000 deaths annually. It said smoking is the province’s number one cause of illness and premature death.

The legislation allows Ontario to directly sue tobacco companies for alleged wrongdoing and allocates liability among tobacco companies by market share. A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco Canada, Canada’s leading tobacco company and a wholly owned unit of British American Tobacco, said the Ontario lawsuit made no sense, given that the product is legal, regulated, and taxed by the government. (pi)

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