Tobacco firms ordered to pay $12.5 billion in Canada

A Canadian court has ordered British American TobaccoPLC, Philip Morris International Inc. and Japan Tobacco Inc. to pay 15.6 billion Canadian dollars ($12.5 billion) in damages to Quebec smokers after a 17-year legal battle, in the latest case to roil the global tobacco industry, The Wall Street Journal reports.

More than one million Quebecers—comprising smoking addicts and people who had become sick from smoking—were represented in class-action suits claiming tobacco companies should be held responsible for selling a harmful product and obscuring the health impact of smoking.

Imperial Tobacco Canada, a unit of British American Tobacco, was ordered to pay 10.4 billion Canadian dollars. Rothman’s Benson & Hedges—a unit of Philip Morris—and JTI-Macdonald Ltd., a unit of Japan Tobacco, were also ordered to make payments. The case stretched back to 1998 and went to trial in 2012.

The judgment called on the companies to pay initial compensation of at least 1.13 billion Canadian dollars within 60 days, regardless of whether they appeal the ruling. Imperial Tobacco Canada’s share is $743 million Canadian dollars.

The firms argued that Canadian smokers have had a high awareness of smoking health risks for decades, not least through health warnings on cigarette packaging.

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