[JURIST] The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) [official website] announced [MOH news release] Tuesday that it has renewed claims and is seeking greater damages against 13 local cigarette importers in an effort to "curb the spreading of some serious health problems caused by cigarette smoking." The lawsuit, filed by MOH last year [MOH news release], seeks $34 billion in compensation, and is the first of its kind in the country. According to the Health Minister on Tuesday, "MOH has incurred great costs for treating the diseases caused by smoking" and the government intends to target local Saudi cigarette importers, as opposed to international tobacco companies, as part of a new government anti-smoking campaign. AP has more.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions brought by governments against tobacco companies [JURIST news archive] for health care costs associated with the treatment of tobacco-related diseases. Similar lawsuits have been filed in Nigeria, South Korea, Japan, and Canada [JURIST reports]. The US government, 46 US states, and a number of US territories settled litigation [DOJ backgrounder] against a number of tobacco companies in November 1998 [settlement summary] for damages stemming from tobacco-related health care costs. In 2006, a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that the tobacco industry was liable for civil racketeering charges filed against the industry by the Department of Justice in 1999.