tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cheap cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

tocacco

Ontario matches B.C.’s tobacco battle

There’s a one-word answer for any Ontarians looking to B.C. for advice on what attitude to take in their just-announced lawsuit against tobacco companies.

“Patience.”

B.C. started down this road in the summer of 1997 and is still two years away from actually going to trial.

If and when the epochal trial starts in September 2011, that will mean 14 years of pre-trial work. That’s even longer than the Basi-Virk corruption case.

The launch of the Ontario case is a good time to update the B.C. one.

Most of the delay stems from the constitutional challenges that were mounted by tobacco companies, then counter-challenged by the government.

B.C. and the companies went up the ladder from the B.C. Supreme Court, to the Appeal Court, to the Supreme Court of Canada over the legislation that set the stage for the suit.

That was the Tobacco Damages Recovery Act, later named the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act. It drastically tilts the playing field in favour of the government and extends the reach of the suit to multinational firms headquartered outside Canada.

Both sides have won and lost in the lower courts. But the final word in the preliminary arguments was delivered by the high court in 2005, when it ruled that the law setting up how the case will proceed is constitutional.

It’s never wise to prejudge a case. But this one is pretty hard to lose, given the cards the government has dealt itself. The first version reversed the onus, so the tobacco companies have to prove their cigarettes didn’t kill people, rather than the government have to prove they do.

The court is directed to presume the smoking-cancer link. And if misleading advertising is proven, then it’s presumed smoker were exposed to tobacco-related harm by the companies, rather than by their own choices. The government is allowed to rely on statistical evidence, rather than proving harm case-by-case. It doesn’t even have to produce any victims.

The law was re-written several times over the years through all the appeals, but it still reads strongly in the government’s favour.

What’s at stake is 60 years worth of health-care costs incurred by treating smokers, several thousand of whom who die each year. Plus whatever other damages can be claimed. The nominal value of the suit is $10 billion in B.C. Ontario is claiming $50 billion, but everything hinges on how the B.C. case proceeds.

Winning a $10-billion case would look at first glance to be the ultimate jackpot. But the companies and some business observers have been predicting bankruptcy if the firms lose.

They say governments are senior partners in the business. (B.C. will take in more than $600 million this year in tobacco taxes.)

U.S. companies sustained a $245 billion judgment a decade ago. If the industry survived that, it can survive anything.

Ontario got some splashy headlines by announcing such huge claims against such an inviting target. But it will take an extraordinary amount of work and expense to win, even after B.C. has done a lot of the preparatory work.

B.C. costs in just getting the case to this point aren’t disclosed, but are estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.

Said Attorney General Mike de Jong: “I don’t have a figure, but you measure the cost in these cases in the fives and tens of millions, as opposed to hundreds of thousands.”

The two sides have been exchanging documents over the past few years (the U.S. case produced 40 million pages) and prepping for examinations for discovery.

A settlement of some sort is a likely outcome, but it’s probably years away. How it would apply across Canada, now that many provinces are involved in the tobacco war, has yet to be determined. But B.C. is first in line if that day ever comes.

Liberals had some minor reservations over the suit when the NDP government first launched it, but decided when they took power to pursue it.

Whoever is in power if and when a cheque is eventually written will be giving fervent thanks.

[email protected]
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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