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Monday, 19 March 2012

Tobacco – a few quick puffs

Lots of tobacco smoke in the air these days.

The start of a Quebec class action civil trial is making headlines as lawyers argue for $27B in damages.  Quebec class action law suit.   While the Canadian legal system is renowned for its molasses  rate of flow, it is notable that this suit took over a dozen years to get to court, and will likely take years to work its way through the system.   A similar suit initially launched by the BC government in 1998 recently cleared a Supreme Court challenge on a point of pre-trial clarification on whether the federal government was co-liable with the tobacco companies for tobacco related damages July 2011 Supreme court decision .  Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland have also initiated court actions since the BC challenge began.  All provinces have apparently passed enabling legislation to allow for such actions.

As of June 19, 2012, Canada will require new graphic packaging warning that cover 75% of the packaging material.  As of March 21, 2012, manufacturers and importers of cigarettes and/or little cigars will be prohibited from selling or distributing packages of cigarettes and little cigars that do not display the new health warnings.

Tobacco news from south of the border.  The 2012 Surgeon General’s report on Tobacco and Youth Surgeon General - smoking and youth 2012  was released this past week;   Nothing astonishing, just confirmation that smoking is bad for you, tobacco use rate reduction is slowing, advertising contributions to initiation, and cessation requires a multicomponent approach. 

While the Canadian judicial system has its problems, at least the Supreme Court of Canada under Justice McLachlin has been adamant that they do not establish policy.   Such is not apparently the case for our closest neighbours where political ideology is integral to court appointments.   An injunction against implementation of a Tobacco packaging labels was granted by a US district court judge which will delay what are now accepted as effective and useful interventions to prevent smoking initiation and encourage cessation.   The  Tobacco Free Kids press release provides an analysis indicating flaws in both the law and science.  While the decision has already been appealed, the US judicial process also moves slow enough that tens of thousands of preventable deaths will not be averted due to the decision of a judge – who has no accountability for sentencing these persons to death.   

And, on the day this was posted the following court backs packaging .  This report speaks to two court cases and references the one above.   The 2-1 decision of this appeals court is one that supports the government in requiring the labels.   If any reader out there can help differentiate the impact of the two decisions, I'm sure others would be interested.

May 17 - a late amendment but worth recording here.  Strong action by the Association of Attorney Generals in the US aimed at large movie studios to improve their performance on use of tobacco in movies with youth viewing audiences.  http://www.naag.org/movie-studios-should-stop-depicting-smoking-in-youth-rated-movies.php   

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