E-Cigarettes: The Future of Smoking in Canada?
Date Posted: March 23, 2012
Quebec smokers stand to share a C$27 billion payout resulting from the largest civil lawsuit in Canadian History. The suit was filed against Canada’s three biggest tobacco companies; Imperial Tobacco Canada, JTI-Macdonald Corp and Rothmans Benson & Hedges. Filed by current and former smokers; the law suit alleges misconduct with regards to the companies’ negligence in informing customers of health risks associated with using their products. Unlike the United States, where a similar suit forced Big Tobacco to pay smokers a sum of $246 billion over 25 years, this class action suit is the first of its kind, in Canada.
When questioned about the matter, a representative of Imperial Tobacco Canada stated, “This case is about whether Imperial Tobacco Canada should be held responsible for the personal smoking decisions made by smokers, who were well informed about those risks.” The tobacco companies assert that the recent accusations against them are an “opportunistic cash grab” and claim that the public is well-aware of the health risks associated with tobacco use. Imperial Tobacco Canada has even gone so far as to publish a statement expressing their eagerness to educate people about the rich history of tobacco in Canada.
It remains to be seen what impact, if any, the suit will have on Canada’s E-cigarette ban. Supporters of the E-cigarette movement have long-touted the obvious benefits of switching from traditional smoke to vapor. Elaine Keller, president of the CASAA, has been quoted as saying that she believes tobacco cigarettes will ultimately cease to exist altogether. She predicts smokeless tobacco products like Sweden’s ‘Snus’, nicotine lozenges and e-cigs will take over the market. Unfortunately for Canadians, the ban must be lifted for them to have access to e-cigs at all.
David Sweanor, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, spent the last 30 years studying the tobacco industry and anti-smoking initiatives. In an interview with CBCRadio, he said that Canadian tobacco companies were interested in finding alternatives to cigarettes. This is likely for a variety of reasons. These companies may want to claim their share of the market; they may foresee an increase in the demand for such products; they could just be concerned that not participating would result in being left behind. When asked to comment on the ban of electronic cigarettes in Canada, David Sweanor said, “The government looks at this (e-cigarettes) as a stand-alone product. They are looking at risk rather than relative risk.” While he agrees that e-cigs require additional testing and acknowledges they contain nicotine and carry some risk with them, he believes they are at least 99% less hazardous than smoking a cigarette.
In regards to nicotine, Sweanor says, “People are using drugs for a reason. I don’t thing we are going to see them go away if we are not willing to differentiate between the drug and the delivery system. People smoke for the nicotine, but die from the smoke.” Listen to the full interview.