On the opening day of a landmark lawsuit against their clients, lawyers for big tobacco companies put the blame squarely on the shoulders of smokers, saying they know very well the risks but continue smoking nonetheless.
Lawyers for the tobacco industry have long ago thrown away their strategy of denying the risks associated with smoking. On the contrary, they now maintain that smokers today cannot say they were not aware of the dangers hidden in a sexy cigarette.
This was their main argument during the opening in Quebec superior court -- after 14 years of delays -- of a massive class-action suit brought by a group of Quebec smokers against big Canadian tobacco companies. The smokers, who blame JTI-Macdonald Corp, Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges for their addiction and illnesses, are suing for 27 billion dollars. According to the Toronto Star, this lawsuit "is unprecedented in Canada and the biggest in this country's history".
Lawyers for the big three did not lose any time before blaming their clients' clients for the ills they brought on themselves, saying they must assume the consequences of their choice. Suzanne Côté, lawyer for Imperial Tobacco, made a point of reminding everyone, especially smokers, that the dangers of smoking have been known for about 50 years, and that despite graphic warnings on packages, "tens of thousands start smoking, even in 2012".
Smokers say cigarette makers have for years misled them by minimizing the risks of tobacco use and, once they were hooked, they were unable to break the habit. And their lawyer, Bruce Johnston, said he will prove tobacco companies have put toxic products on the market while trying to hide the risks. On that subject, a representative of the Canadian Cancer Society, Rob Cunningham, said this lawsuit will force tobacco giants to release their secret internal documents.
Which might take some time. Observers say the lawsuit could take years before reaching any conclusion in one way or another.