R. v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., et al.

The Government of British Columbia and a class of smokers of “light” or “mild” cigarettes brought separate actions against tobacco companies seeking redress for the companies’ failure to inform the public of the harmful nature of various types of cigarettes.  The tobacco companies, in turn, issued third-party notices to the Government of Canada, arguing that, if held liable to the plaintiffs, the companies would be entitled to compensation from Canada under various theories of law.  The Court held that the companies' pleading disclosed no reasonable cause of action, finding, among other things, that:  (1) an alleged duty of care to smokers did not exist; (2) Canada’s relationship with consumers and the tobacco companies was not sufficiently proximate to establish tortious liability; (3) Canada’s public health policy encouraging smokers to switch to low-tar cigarettes did not breach the duty of care; (4) Canada was not liable as a “manufacturer” under the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, under the Negligence Act, or at common law; (5) Canada did not constitute a “supplier” within the meaning of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act because Canada did not promote the use of low‑tar cigarettes for commercial purposes; and (6) Canada’s regulation of the tobacco industry was not an implicit promise to indemnify compliance under the narrow doctrine of equitable indemnity.


R. v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., et al., 2011 SCC 42, Supreme Court of Canada (2011).

  • Canada
  • Jul 29, 2011
  • Supreme Court of Canada



  • Attorney General of Canada
  • Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada


  • B.A.T. Industries P.L.C.
  • British American Tobacco (Investments) Limited
  • Carreras Rothmans Limited
  • Her Majesty the Queen in Right of British Columbia
  • Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited
  • JTI‑Macdonald Corp.
  • Philip Morris International Inc.
  • Philip Morris USA Inc.
  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco International Inc.
  • Rothmans Inc.
  • Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.

Third Party

  • Attorney General of British Columbia
  • Attorney General of Ontario
  • Her Majesty The Queen in Right of the Province of New Brunswick

Legislation Cited

Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act

Negligence Act

Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act

Related Documents

Type of Litigation

Tobacco Control Topics

Substantive Issues


Type of Tobacco Product