Twiggy Forrest is interested in suing tobacco giants for the damage they cause.

Billionaire iron ore magnate and philanthropist Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and his wife Nicola fund the $75-million Eliminate Cancer Initiative (ECI), which is looking at mounting a legal case seeking billions in compensation from tobacco companies.

Any litigation is likely to be modelled on a recent Canadian lawsuit in which three tobacco companies had to pay more than $15.6 billion in damages to smokers in Quebec.

“What we do need to keep in mind is the impact and cost associated with those smokers who are now coming through the healthcare system,” ECI chief operating officer Bruce Mansfield told reporters.

“We do need to recognise that there is a cost associated with tobacco and therefore an approach that needs to be considered very sensibly is for those industries to actually take some of the burden away from the community and of course the government.”

Mr Forrest said smoking is the single-greatest cause of preventable death.

“Cancer is the greatest cause of disease burden in Australia and, personally, it has caused the misery of every single generation of Forrests since the premature death of Lord John Forrest in 1918,” Mr Forrest said.

“One hundred million lives will be lost in the next decade — one in six deaths and with a rising incidence by 70 per cent in the next two decades.

“We must erupt change and bring this devastating disease to its knees.”

Mr Forrest's Minderoo Foundation is planning a multi-pronged “assault” on the tobacco industry that will include trying to convince major financial institutions to cut tobacco companies from their investment portfolios.

The Australian Council on Smoking and Health says big tobacco companies should bear the costs of their products.

“The biggest impact of a successful legal action would be to hasten the demise of the tobacco industry in Australia,” president Maurice Swanson said.

“We're aiming for a smoke-free Australia by 2025 and this sort of action by Andrew Forrest would put another nail in the coffin of the tobacco industry.”

“We all know that tobacco is expensive in Australia and that's because we have relatively high taxes and they have been successful at reducing the number of smokers in Australia but those taxes are paid by individual smokers.

“The most compelling reason we're calling for this sort of action is that taxpayers are the group that picks up the tab for the treatment of smoking caused diseases.

“The tobacco industry itself, the most lethal industry in the world, contributes nothing to compensate governments for the healthcare costs that are incurred by the consumption of their lethal product.”