Tobacco Litigation


In 1998, British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in Canada and the Commonwealth to launch a lawsuit for the recovery of those tobacco-related health care costs that were incurred by the government of B.C. as a result of the past, wrongful conduct of the tobacco industry, including the deceptive promotion of their product.

The lawsuit asserts tobacco manufacturers:

  • Marketed “light” cigarettes as safer when they knew they were not
  • Targeted children in their advertising and marketing
  • Conspired to suppress research on the risks of smoking
  • Conspired to invalidate the public warnings on the risks of smoking
  • Are responsible for health care costs associated with smoking

The action was authorized by the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act (1998). The defendant manufacturers successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act (1998) at the British Columbia Supreme Court.

In response, British Columbia introduced new legislation, the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act (2000), to deal with the Supreme Court’s concerns. On Jan. 24, 2001, the Province re-launched its action against the tobacco industry.

In September 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upheld the Province’s right to sue the tobacco industry and concluded the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act (2000) is constitutional.

In March 2012, B.C. announced that it has partnered with five other Canadian provinces to retain a national legal consortium to prosecute health care claims against the Canadian manufacturers and their foreign affiliates. Two law firms, Bennett Jones and Siskinds, will represent B.C., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island on a contingency fee basis to pursue the individual claims of these provinces. Given the many common elements of the claims, combining forces with other provinces and coordinating legal resources will expedite moving these cases to trial.