Canada government hires tobacco industry "Insider"
OTTAWA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The Canadian government announced on Tuesday it had hired Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, the man who blew the whistle on the U.S. tobacco industry and inspired the movie ``The Insider'', as a special health consultant on national tobacco p
Wigand is a former vice-president and head of research for U.S. tobacco company Brown & Williamson, a unit of British American Tobacco Plc (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: BATS.L). ``The Insider'' is based in part on his struggle several years ago to reveal the inside workings of the U.S. tobacco industry.
Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock stressed Wigand's ``courage'' and said the government would count on him to get a sense of Canadian tobacco companies' maneuvers.
``We want him to work with us to develop a more efficient strategy against tobacco,'' the minister said.
He also said Ottawa had not excluded suing tobacco companies to recover health-care costs. Lawsuits have been launched in the U.S. recently to recover billions of dollars in damages from tobacco companies.
``We have not ruled out any possible action,'' Rock said outside the House of Commons.
Wigand told reporters in Ottawa that tobacco companies manipulated nicotine levels in cigarettes. ``I clearly say that they manipulate the delivery of nicotine,'' he said.
He also stressed the need for more government spending of tobacco taxes on anti-smoking programs, adding that everyone should try to prevent teenagers from starting to smoke.
In a campaign tour of Canada, Wigand has accused Canadian cigarette manufacturers -- especially Imperial Tobacco (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: IMT.L), which controls about 70 percent of the market -- of failing to disclose reports to consumers on nicotine technology, cigarette design and development, and smoking and health issues for years.
Among the information kept private, he said, were Imperial Tobacco reports conceding that the ``light'' cigarettes they produced bore the name simply to give smokers a false sense that they were smoking a safer product.
Imperial Tobacco has said that it never made any health claims about its light cigarettes and was simply responding to consumer and government demand for a lighter product when it created them.
About 28 percent -- 7 million -- Canadians are smokers. The latest Health Canada statistics show that there are 45,000 smoking-related deaths in Canada each year.