Ontario's Tobacco Litigation: Frequently Asked Questions

On September 29, 2009, Ontario filed a $50-billion claim against several tobacco companies under the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, 2009.

This lawsuit is currently before the courts. For more information about this litigation, read the following frequently asked questions:

Why are you suing the manufacturers of tobacco products?

We are suing tobacco companies in order to recover past and ongoing health care costs due to tobacco-related illness.

The financial and human toll of tobacco use is unacceptable. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Ontario. It kills 13,000 people a year - three times the combined number of deaths caused by alcohol, drugs, suicide, homicide and car crashes.

Tobacco-related disease costs Ontario's health care system $1.93 billion in direct health care costs and $5.8 billion in productivity losses each year.

What is Ontario's claim against the tobacco companies?

We are seeking to recover $50 billion in damages for the past and ongoing health care costs linked to tobacco-related illness, caused by a breach of duty on the part of the tobacco companies.

Our Statement of Claim alleges that the defendants:

  • knew about the addictiveness of cigarettes and the health damages they caused
  • deceived the public by misrepresenting the risks
  • failed to warn the public about the dangers of smoking
  • promoted cigarettes to children and teens
  • did not take all available steps to reduce the risks caused by their products.

A copy of Ontario's Statement of Claim can be obtained from the Superior Court of Justice at 393 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario. Maps and contact information can be found here.

Who are you suing?

The 14 defendants include companies that currently manufacture and sell cigarettes in Ontario or who have manufactured and sold cigarettes in the province over the period relevant to the action (approximately 1953 to present).

The action also names the past and present parent companies of these manufacturers as defendants, whether they are based in Ontario or abroad.

Defendants include:

  • Rothmans Inc.
  • Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.
  • Carreras Rothmans Limited
  • Altria Group, Inc.
  • Philip Morris U.S.A. Inc.
  • Philip Morris International Inc.
  • JTI-Macdonald Corp.
  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco International Inc.
  • Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited
  • British American Tobacco P.L.C.
  • B.A.T. Industries P.L.C.
  • British American Tobacco (Investments) Limited
  • Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers' Council.

What is the status of Ontario's lawsuit?

On September 29, 2009, Ontario filed a $50-billion claim against 14 tobacco defendants under the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, 2009.

In 2011, seven foreign tobacco companies brought motions challenging the Court's jurisdiction over this action, arguing that the Ontario government could not sue them because they were not located in the province. These foreign companies are the past and present parent companies of the Canadian defendants. On January 4, 2012, the Superior Court of Justice released its decision to dismiss each of the foreign tobacco defendants' motions. This decision paves the way for Ontario's lawsuit to continue. Copies of all Ontario court decisions can be found at CanLII.

On April 3, 2012, the Court ordered the companies to pay the costs incurred by the Province to defend the application, in the amount of more than $577,000, to be paid within 30 days.

The defendants have since appealed the decisions in the areas of both jurisdiction and costs. In addition, some of the domestic defendants have also brought motions to strike the claim and for other particulars that will need to be heard and decided by the court. This matter is before the courts.

What are the next steps?

Ontario will continue to vigorously pursue this litigation on behalf of taxpayers and all Ontarians who have been impacted by tobacco-related illness, and will resist any delays in moving this action forward.

What other steps has the Ontario government taken to reduce smoking-related illness in Ontario?

Ontario is working on a number of fronts to reduce tobacco-related illness and death through the Smoke Free Ontario Strategy. This includes measures to help people quit smoking, to ensure that young people don't pick up the habit in the first place, and to protect Ontarians from exposure to second-hand smoke.

To learn more about these initiatives, visit ontario.ca/smokefree.