Activists say public health is a key in provincial anti-tobacco suits
OTTAWA – Garfield Mahood, for decades a painful thorn in the side of Big Tobacco, is back with a new campaign urging the provinces to put new emphasis on public health in their legal battles against the tobacco industry.
Mahood’s Campaign for Justice on Tobacco Fraud has sent a letter to provincial attorneys general and health ministers, saying the anti-tobacco campaign should be about more than money.
Nine provinces have filed suits against tobacco manufacturers seeking billions of dollars in health costs due to smoking.
The suits have dragged out for years, in part because the tobacco companies can afford to raise “a wall of flesh” in the form of private lawyers willing to file motions and fight to the Supreme Court of Canada over and over.
Mahood said he has no problem with the slow pace, saying the provinces have shown persistence in their fight with the tobacco industry.
“The province of British Columbia has been to the Supreme Court two or three times and they’ve won every time,” he said.
What the campaign wants is a new emphasis in the fight.
“These lawsuits should be about much more than money,” said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.
“We applaud these lawsuits, but want the attorneys general and health ministers involved to put justice and public health at the top of their lists of desired outcomes for their litigation.”