Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Additions to the summer reading list

A week has passed since the Montreal tobacco trials adjourned for the summer, but it seems that the legal teams are not yet on a summer break. More signs of work appeared on the plaintiffs' document database  this week. (Don't forget to push on the blue bar "access direct à l'information/direct access to information" to be able to use this wonderful resource)

Eleven thousand news stories 

Exhibit 20065.1671
By Monday this week there were over 11,000 - count 'em!-  new documents.

Most of these are the news reports and other 'reliance material' that had been attached to 12 volume expert opinion of David Flaherty (Exhibits 20063, 20063.1, 20063.2, 20063.3, 20063.4, 20063.5, 20063.6, 20063.7, 20063.8, 20063.9, 20063.10, 20063.11).

These records can be found as Exhibits 20065.1 through 20065.11750. 

It's not entirely clear what further use these record might serve in the trial - other than as dressing to Mr. Flaherty's conclusions that Canadians were informed about the harms of smoking.

Their usefulness in other contexts might be diminished by the challenge of looking through them, with suspiciously scant index data (only title and date) available. Nonetheless, they are a noteworthy addition to publicly-available archives on tobacco issues.

Two new expert reports

The additional reports promised by the defendant tobacco companies were circulated this week, and were made public today.

One of these is by Kip Viscusi - a Vanderbilt University professor who has earned a certain notoriety in public health circles as the industry's go-to-boy. Mr. Viscusi has published a number of articles supportive of tobacco industry positions, and has testified frequently for the industry in U.S. litigation.

His report for this trial (The Role of Wamings and Other Health Information in Smoking Decisions in Canada) was conducted on behalf of Philip Morris Internation/Rothmans, Benson and Hedges and JTI-Macdonald. 

It is not his first contribution to the Quebec court process, however. He previously worked for Loto Quebec when it was fighting a class action related to compulsive gambling that was eventually settled out of court

Mr. Viscusi is another adherent of the proposition that smoking is a rational choice, and says that Canadians have received enough information for decades "to assist them in making rational smoking decisions." What's more, he says, smokers "overestimate the serious risks of smoking."  That's just the teaser in his introduction to his 50 page report. 

The second report on warnings was written on behalf of BAT/Imperial Tobacco by a U.S. consultant, Stephen Young. In his 45 page report, he concludes that the companies did not need to put warnings on cigarettes, "in light of the Canadian government's public health efforts," and that the warnings that were eventually put on cigarettes provided sufficient level of detail. He draws comparisons with seat-belt laws, alcohol and food labelling.

Besides, he says "People smoke (or don't smoke) for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with consideration of the potential risks" and the warnings wouldn't make any difference anyway.

As my mother would say, put that in your pipe and smoke it!