Some times the words you write about tobacco and the industry will never be as good the actual quotes from their own insiders. A trial is going on in Montreal, Quebec which will decide two class actions: one action concerns addiction and the other concerns lung disease.
Quebec is asking for a total of $17.8 billion in the first case ($8.9 billion in compensation and $8.9 billion in punitive damages) for an estimated 1.78 million addicted smokers. They are also asking for $100,000 in compensation for each Quebec smoker who has suffered from cancer of the lung, larynx or throat and/or emphysema. The second action is worth $9.45 billion for an estimated 90,000 smokers ($9 billion in compensation, $450 million in punitive damages). It has taken 13 years to get the Canadian operations of Rothmans Benson and Hedges, Imperial Tobacco Ltd, and JTI-Macdonald this far. The trial started in March.
Using the tobacco companies’ own documents the lawyer for the first class action, Bruce Johnston, described their attitude as being “above the law.” The industry had either not informed smokers of the risk of tobacco products, had minimized, denied or misrepresented the risks, had failed to reduce the addictiveness and kept users from learning the dangers of smoking. One handwritten note between insiders at Imperial Tobacco stated: “If our product wasn’t addictive, we wouldn’t sell a cigarette next week.” Another note stated it was “good news” that it was difficult to quit smoking.
The lawyer for the second class action, Andre Lesperance, cited four main arguments of the tobacco companies: ethical failures, the enormity of the health problem due to smoking, the responsibility of the manufacturers’ under law, and destruction of documents by the tobacco companies, which could hinder litigation. One document from Rothmans Benson and Hedges stated as they knew far back as 1950 that lung cancer deaths from smoking 2 or more packs of cigarettes a day was 64 times greater for smokers than non-smokers, yet the health risks were later either minimized or denied.
One point made by Imperial Tobacco’s defense, Suzanna Cote, is that it is not the tobacco industry’s fault if people continue to smoke, they do so because they like it. She also claimed that it’s impossible to make a safer cigarette because no one will smoke it. Go to the blog site to read more arguments from the other counsels as well as the Canadian government’s argument.
While the trial outcome will provide compensation for Quebec smokers, the information garnered from this trial may affect the tobacco industry globally. Although there is an enormous amount of information from this trial in the blog, it is easy to read. No doubt the news medias will be covering this trial for months to come. Stay tuned.
Click here for Day 1 of the trial. Other days can be found on the lower left side of the page under Blog Archive starting in March.