Tobacco companies win partial legal victory

Tobacco makers being sued in Canada over the health risks of smoking won a partial victory with a ruling that the Canadian government's role in developing some strains of tobacco should be considered in the upcoming trial, reports Reuters.

A divided British Columbia Court of Appeals panel overturned part of a lower court's ruling that the federal government could not be drawn in by the industry as a third party defendant in cases over the health costs associated with smoking and the promotion of "light" cigarettes.
The appeals panel, ruling on two related cases, said the government may have to share in any possible liability related to Agriculture Canada's role in the development of strains of tobacco used to make "light" and "mild" cigarettes.
The first case brought by the province of British Columbia seeks to collect damages from several cigarette makers and their international parents for the cost of treating smoking-related diseases. The second case is a class-action by smokers against Imperial Tobacco, who allege they were mislead into believing that cigarettes labeled "mild" or "light" were safer to smoke than regular cigarettes.
The tobacco industry has long argued that government should share in any responsibility for damages because they were "partners" in the sale of tobacco by keeping it legal and collecting tax revenue from it.
Several of Canada provinces have sued the industry for billions in damages, but the British Columbia case was the filed first and is being used as the lead case in the courts. In addition to BAT and Imperial Tobacco Canada, the cases involve Rothmans Benson & Hedges, Philip Morris International  and Rothmans, and JTI-Macdonald Corp, owned by Japan Tobacco International. (pi)

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