Four tobacco companies, being sued by the New Brunswick government over health care costs, argue the province collected more on cigarette taxes than it paid providing medical services to smokers.

British American Tobacco P.L.C., B.A.T. Industries P.L.C, British American Tobacco (Investments) Ltd., and Carreras Rothmans contend the lawsuit should be thrown out.

The provincial government is suing several big tobacco companies in a bid to recover the costs of treating smoking-related diseases in the years the companies refused to reveal the health risks of smoking.

It's unclear how much money the province is seeking, but the four companies contend the cigarettes sold in New Brunswick were not their cigarettes, due to mergers and takeovers.

They're not legally responsible for any previous companies they've taken over that did business in the province, they argue in their statements of defence, filed in Fredericton court on Monday, the court-imposed deadline.

The companies say money spent treating smoking-related diseases was from a "pre-determined budget" for "health care generally."

They also point out that smoking was legal throughout the 60-year period covered by the lawsuit.

Some of the companies argue New Bruswickers who smoked chose to do so, despite news coverage, awareness campaigns and warning labels identifying the risks.

The provincial government filed the lawsuit against the tobacco companies in March 2008, making it the second province to do so, after British Columbia.

The case had been slowed down by a series of procedural objections launched by the companies.

But in July, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Thomas Cyr ordered the companies to file their defences.

The companies named in the suit include: Carreras Rothmans Limited, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris U.S.A, JTI-MacDonald Corp, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Imperial Tobacco Ltd.