The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that the Canadian government does not share liability with tobacco companies for smoking-related health costs.
The ruling concerned two cases where the high court was asked to intervene in order to determine whether the government should be held liable at all for costs related to smokers' health problems.
"The facts as pleaded do not bring Canada's relationship with consumers and the tobacco companies within a settled category of negligent misrepresentation," the court decision read.
In the first case, smokers in the province of British Columbia launched a class-action lawsuit against Imperial Tobacco's Canadian unit, saying the company's description of cigarettes as "light" or "mild" was misleading.
They sought reimbursement from Imperial for the cigarettes they have smoked, and demanded damages. Imperial responded by asking that the federal government be added as a defendant because of its support for light cigarettes.
The second case concerned a lawsuit British Columbia had filed against 14 tobacco manufacturers, including Rothmans, R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris seeking refund of the money the province spent on health care for tobacco-related diseases.
In both cases, tobacco companies said the Canadian government had played a role because of its regulation of its industry, taxation and support for warning labels to be placed on packets of tobacco products.
Imperial alleged that Canada "negligently represented the health attributes of low-tar cigarettes to consumers."
And in both cases, the tobacco companies said the government had made "negligent misrepresentations" to them.
The nine justices of the Supreme Court rejected the companies' demands, reversing 2009 rulings in their favor granted by the British Columbia Court of Appeal.