People knew smoking risks decades ago: former tobacco execs

MONTREAL — A retired tobacco spokesman told a historic civil trial Tuesday that his company was already under fire in the 1960s over the potential health risks of smoking.

MONTREAL — A retired tobacco spokesman told a historic civil trial Tuesday that his company was already under fire in the 1960s over the potential health risks of smoking.

Smokers who failed to notice such reports, he said, must have been “blind.”

Michel Descoteaux, who headed Imperial Tobacco’s public-relations department for more than two decades, said there was no point trying to argue against a public and media that wanted to hear one thing: that smoking was bad for you.

Descoteaux was testifying at the start of a landmark class-action suit, the biggest civil trial in Canadian history. It pits Quebec smokers against Canada’s three biggest cigarette companies.

The smokers accuse the tobacco companies of misleading them over the years about the potential danger from cigarettes.

Taking the witness stand, Descoteaux said the evidence the company actually had in the 1960s, gathered by company scientists and researchers, was that there was no link between smoking and public health.

But he testified that the general public and news media dismissed such reports back then and demanded that the company come clean.

“Public opinion was cigarettes were causing all kinds of deaths and the company (made) comments that weren’t in keeping with that,” Descoteaux said.

“You would have had to be blind to see that we had no credibility with the media and it was the same with the smokers and the general public.”

The landmark case, with up to $27 billion at stake, is also considered the biggest class-action suit in Canadian history and is also the first time tobacco companies have gone to trial in a civil suit in Canada.

Just Posted

Councillors want to represent Red Deer at AUMA

City council approves endorsement

Cannabis smoke raises health concerns

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Avid Penhold climber Catlin Hannah’s death a reminder of the dangers of scrambling

Hannah never returned from his Mount Smuts attempt on Aug. 12.

Children, elderly at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

VANCOUVER — Thick smoke blanketing British Columbia communities far from any flames… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the… Continue reading

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month