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Quebec sues big tobacco for $60B

Half of Canadian provinces have now sued big tobacco companies in an attempt to recoup health costs, with the Quebec government announcing a $60-billion lawsuit Friday.

Five provinces have now filed similar lawsuits — British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Quebec — while five others have announced plans to do the same.

In the United States, such actions have been resolved with a huge out-of-court settlement — of at least US$206 billion over 25 years.

The lawsuits from provinces are separate from historic class-action lawsuits being launched by smokers and former smokers in Quebec.

Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said he wouldn’t share many details of the government’s case outside the courtroom, but he did say the government believes tobacco companies were not forthcoming in the past with information about the hazards of smoking.

Health Minister Yves Bolduc listed multiple types of illnesses or treatments associated with smoking — including cancer, heart disease, amputations and underweight births.

“The illnesses (associated) are our principal causes of hospitalization — and also the principal cause of illnesses that require extremely expensive treatments,” Bolduc said.

“So the costs associated with these illnesses over many years has placed an extremely high financial burden on the health system.”