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N.W.T. now able to sue tobacco companies

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The Northwest Territories government can now launch lawsuits again tobacco companies to try to recoup health care costs.

Last week, MLAs passed legislation allowing the government to sue for tobacco-related diseases. Yukon is the only area in the country that does not have similar legislation.

Karan Shaner, N.W.T.’s assistant deputy minister of Justice, says the territory would only have to prove the companies are selling tobacco, because the link between tobacco and certain diseases is already proven.

“We don’t have to prove every single case that we have spent money on as a territory,” she said. “Instead we can provide a statistically significant sampling that could then be tested in court.”

Shaner says the territory could try to get cash for costs incurred as far back as the mid-1980s.

Every province has launched or plans to launch similar lawsuits, and Nunavut said in early August that it plans ot sue tobacco companies for health-care costs associated with smoking.

Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society and the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness estimate smoking-related illnesses currently cost taxpayers about $200 million each year to treat.

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