The provincial government announced last week it will sue tobacco companies to pay for health care costs caused by smoking-related illnesses.
Health Minister Fred Thorne said last week the province is seeking $10-billion in damages.
“The law suit is looking at the cumulative effect of tobacco back to the 1950s,” Horne said Wednesday during a news conference.
The province has documented the cost to the health care system of illnesses that have links to tobacco.
Horne said Alberta would allocate any money it receives to future anti-smoking initiatives.
“That is the principle that is at play,” Horne told reporters.
Premier Alison Redford joined Horne at the new conference, noting tobacco use has had a devastating impact on generations of Albertans.
“The costs are not just to our health care system, but in the many lives cut short by the use of tobacco,” Redford said. “This legal action is a significant part of renewing our tobacco reduction strategy.”
Alberta has retained Tobacco Recovery Lawyers LLP since June 2011, a consortium of law firms, to file the lawsuit on its behalf.
“Each year more than 3,000 Albertans die from tobacco-caused diseases,” Horne said. “As part of our focus on wellness and keeping Albertans healthy, we will be renewing our tobacco reduction strategy to further decrease smoking rates, reduce exposure to second-hand smoke and providing more support to people who want to quit using tobacco.”
Alberta, B.C., New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario have all filed suits against tobacco manufacturers.
Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec are expected to file suits.
The Crown’s Right of Recovery Act was proclaimed effective May 31, allowing Alberta to initiate legal action against the tobacco industry.
The Act received Royal Assent on November 26, 2009, and allows government to take direct legal action against tobacco manufacturers to recover health care costs the province has incurred as a result of the industry’s actions.
The premier and Horne said the law suit supports Alberta’s renewed tobacco reduction strategy.
The strategy aims to prevent youth tobacco use, protect Albertans from second-hand smoke and support people who want to quit tobacco.
Horne would not speculate how long it will take to settle the case against the tobacco companies.
“I don’t know that anyone can predict the outcome,” Horne said, admitting it could take years to reach a resolution. “I don’t think that provides any less of a reason to do this.”