The Superior Court of Quebec has determined that the major Canadian tobacco companies, Imperial Tobacco, JTI Macdonald, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, are to pay $15 billion in health-related damages. The court examined many issues regarding tobacco companies and smokers but a key issue remains unexamined—the role of the Canadian government in fostering smoking, particularly among adolescents too young to legally smoke.
One on hand, Health Canada very strongly warns against smoking. On the other hand, the government agency states that
There is an important distinction between the traditional and non-traditional use of tobacco as one is respectful of First Nations customs, the other being dangerous and harmful.
Traditional tobacco has been used by many First Nations people to:
Give thanks to the Creator and Mother Earth;
Communicate with the spirits; and
Purify the mind and heal the body.
The Canadian government’s sympathetic views on traditional uses of tobacco can’t be separated from the act that illegal cigarette factories are thriving on First Nations’s territories and those cheap, illegal cigarettes that are sold to anyone, including kids, are fueling the next generations of smokers.
This series will examine the role of the Canadian government’s regulatory and law enforcement policies in fostering the health damages now being attributed to the tobacco companies; the effects of government policies need to be considered by the courts in assigning responsibilities for smoking outcomes.
In Part 2, Why Do 90% of Pregnant Women in Nunavut Smoke?