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Surprising Science

Led By Its Smokiest Province, Canada Goes After Big Tobacco

After all the debates over the efficacy of Canadian health care, the Canadian government is pursuing  a unique track in cutting the costs and easing some of the burden placed on its universal health care system. Despite some obvious drawbacks, most notably a potential hit to the tourist industry, Canadian government at the federal and provincial levels are taking an aggressive stance against the tobacco industry and the constraints they’ve place on nationalized health care.

It started with a smoking ban in places like Quebec, where locals used to smoke just about everywhere. The province known for its smoking culture has since considered banning smoking in cars with children present. But in perhaps its boldest move yet, Quebec is apparently considering suing the tobacco industry. And the lawsuit wouldn’t be filed on moral grounds, but with an entirely financial pretext.

With Quebec spending $1 billion a year treating people with smoking-related illnesses, the $30 billion suit looks to recoup the health-care costs related to the tobacco industry. And Quebec isn’t alone.

In an even larger lawsuit, Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is apparently seeking $50 billion in smoking-related damages, which it could now be entitled to thanks to the recently-passed Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act. The act has also been passed in British Columbia, which could be readying a lawsuit of its own.

Canada’s battle against tobacco has already proven costly. Quebec’s ban on tobacco advertising has already endangered a number of high-profile tourist attractions, including the Canadian Grand Prix. One of Canada’s largest annual events, the Montreal race was cancelled last year after years of receiving a prominent sponsorship boost from the tobacco industry. But if a province with a rich smoking history like Quebec is willing to take such calculated risks, there’s no telling how the rest of the Western world might take on such a powerful industry.  


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