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Legislation on Smoking in Canada   To Smoking and Health  theme page

3. Additional Information:

Legislation works proactively, creating a climate that discourages smoking. Tobacco litigation works retroactively, seeking to divert the burden of tobacco use onto the tobacco industry. Litigation has three objectives:

  1. To recover compensation for economic damages, medical expenses and perhaps pain and suffering, due to the defendant’s wrongdoing;  
  2. Deterrence: to avert future wrongdoing of the defendant, here in terms of producing and marketing harmful products; 
  3. To establish accountability, so that wrongdoers can be held accountable by society. 

Litigation and legislation can work together, in that successful litigation can then fund legislated smoking cessation or health promotion programs. Tobacco litigation in the USA has included class action lawsuits, ranging from a group of people to coordinated efforts of several States against tobacco companies.  The Engle case, for example, was a class-action begun in 1994 on behalf of all individuals suffering from tobacco-related diseases along with their surviving relatives in Florida. A verdict of US$145 billion was awarded by a jury in punitive damages against tobacco companies, but this was reversed in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court, although this ruling allowed for individual cases to be brought. The Tobacco Products Liability Project (TPLP) in April of 2010 caused tobacco companies to pay over US$230 million for a smoking cessation program to help thousands of smokers in Louisiana. As of 2010, at least eighty tobacco cases are pending in eleven countries. 

Ontario. Progress in tobacco legislation has been rapid in Ontario.

Graph showing rising percentage of Canadians living in a smoke-free home, 1995-2005.

It is possible, however, that bans polarize people's attitudes. While half of all Ontarians who smoked at some time during their life have now quit, half of all current smokers are not considering quitting.  1998 survey data quoted in the Ontario Drug Monitor suggest that 46% of Ontario smokers were in pre-contemplation, 38% were contemplating quitting, 14% were in preparation, and 2% were in the action stage of quitting.

The Health Department runs a Tobacco Information line at 724-4256


A Success Story?  The California Tobacco Control Program.

Source:  Fichtenberg, C and Glantz, S.  Association of the California Tobacco Control Program with decline in cigarette consumption and mortality from heart disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 2000; 343:1772-7.

The difficulties in encouraging governments to act is described in a review of Sir Richard Doll's contributions to research on smoking and health