TORONTO – The Ontario government announced earlier this week that it is suing tobacco companies for $50 billion “for past and ongoing health-care costs linked to tobacco-related illness,” CBC News reports.
Ontario's action follows the lead of at least two other Canadian provinces.
"Ontario is taking the next step towards recovering taxpayer dollars spent fighting tobacco-related illnesses,” said Ontario's Attorney General Chris Bentley. “We are joining British Columbia and New Brunswick in initiating a lawsuit to recover health-care costs from tobacco companies.”
Ontario said that the $50 billion figure represents the cost that it has paid providing health care for smokers since 1955.
Earlier this year, Ontario passed a law, The Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, that allows it to sue to recover past, present and ongoing tobacco-related damages.
The New York Times writes that the defendants in the case include the Altria Group and some of its Philip Morris subsidiaries, British American Tobacco of London and its Canadian unit Imperial Tobacco as well as R. J. Reynolds and JTI-Macdonald, a Japan Tobacco unit that is in bankruptcy proceedings.
Eric Gagnon, a spokesman for Imperial Tobacco, called the Ontario government “hypocritical” for filing a lawsuit, adding, “What’s happening is double dipping…You’re taking a billion dollars of taxation out of the industry every year, then you turn around and sue the industry.”