The Canadian Cancer Society applauds the Quebec government’s decision to sue the tobacco industry

08 June 2012

Montreal, QC -

Recovering smoking-related healthcare costs

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) – Quebec Division commends the Quebec government’s long-awaited decision to engage in litigation against tobacco-product manufacturers to recover smoking-related healthcare costs. The $60-billion lawsuit is the largest of its kind ever brought against the tobacco industry in Canada.

“The lawsuit filed today launches the process of holding the industry accountable for the harm done to the health of thousands of people in Quebec,” states Suzanne Dubois, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society. “For decades, the tobacco industry has used deceptive practices to promote its deadly products, resulting in hundreds of millions of medicare dollars being spent in Quebec to treat cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. Nearly a third of cancer cases are due directly to tobacco use. This year alone, over 15,000 people in Quebec will contract cancer because of their addiction to tobacco.”

According to the CCS, cost-recovery litigation may result in considerable benefits for public health. In the United States, similar action led to restrictions on the tobacco industry’s marketing practices and the dismantling of major front organizations and lobby groups representing the industry. It also resulted in the release of millions of pages of internal industry documents that had been kept secret until then.

“In addition to cancer, death, and suffering, tobacco use is extremely costly for Quebec. The annual impact of tobacco use is $4 billion in direct and indirect costs, while the tobacco tax revenue that the Quebec government collects only amounts to $850 million,” says Mélanie Champagne, Coordinator, Public Issues, at the CCS. “Tobacco companies have played a leading role in the nationwide smoking epidemic, including covering up the effects of tobacco use on health. We cannot allow these companies to evade accountability for the considerable harm they have caused to tobacco victims and their families.”

The benefits of litigation for Quebec include:

  • Justice: a lawsuit against the tobacco industry will hold it accountable for its destructive behaviour.
  • Truth: documents on the tobacco industry’s longstanding deceptive and damaging practices will be made public, thereby revealing its practice of operating outside normal business rules.
  • Compensation: billions of dollars may be recovered as compensation for healthcare and other costs.
  • Health: litigation may result in greater restrictions on the tobacco industry’s sales and marketing practices.

In addition to Quebec, seven provinces have launched lawsuits. The remaining provinces as well as Nunavut have announced their intention to follow suit.

  • Smoking kills more people than road accidents, AIDS, drug use, alcohol abuse, fire, murder, and suicide combined.
  • Tobacco is responsible for 1 out of 3 cancer deaths. It is the world’s leading preventable cause of death.
  • In the past 5 years, the number of smokers in Quebec has remained level: for each smoker who quits or dies, a young person takes up smoking (about 30,000 per year).
  • A recipe for disaster: more than 100,000 teens (22%) are addicted to tobacco—exactly the same rate as in adults.
  • Cigarettes are highly toxic and addictive products. Barely 5% of smokers manage to stop smoking over the long term without assistance. Thousands of smokers will never manage to quit, despite their best efforts.
  • Lung cancer is by far the deadliest form of cancer. Once again in Quebec this year, it will kill twice as many women as breast cancer and four times as many men as prostate cancer. It also plays a role in the emergence of at least 17 other types of cancer.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

André Beaulieu

Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, Public Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Quebec Division

Phone: (514) 393-3444