"This lawsuit, to be clear, is not about banning cigarettes or punishing smokers," Premier Alison Redford said on Wednesday.

"It is about recovering health care costs as a result of the misconduct of the tobacco industry."

Health Minister Fred Horne said that 3,000 Albertans die each year from tobacco-caused diseases.

"The $10 billion is an estimate of the incurred costs of dealing with tobacco use dating back to the 1950s, in fact," Horne said. "So its based on an assessment of the incidents of a number of health effects of tobacco since that time."

New Brunswick, B.C., Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador have also launched legal action against tobacco companies. Five other Canadian provinces are expected to follow suit.