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Canada court orders tobacco companies to pay billions in damages

[JURIST] A judge for the Quebec Superior Court has awarded over $15 billion [judgment, PDF] (USD $12 billion) in damages to Quebec smokers in a case against tobacco companies JTI-Macdonald, Imperial Tobacco, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, making this the largest award for damages and the biggest class action lawsuit in Canada's history. In a ruling made public Monday, Superior Court Justice Brian Riordan said that by refusing to inform health authorities or the public of what they knew, the companies chose profits over the health of their customers. The judgment requires that the companies issue initial compensation of over $1 billion in the next 60 days, no matter if they elect to appeal. How the funds will be distributed will be decided by the judge at a later date. The plaintiffs are Quebec smokers who said the firms failed to warn them of health risks associated with smoking. The lawsuits were filed in 1998 but only recently went to trial. The plaintiffs' main point of contention was that the companies did not properly warn their customers and failed in their duty "not to cause injury to another person." The tobacco companies plan to appeal the ruling, arguing that the customers have been well aware of the risks of smoking since the 1950s and thus should not be entitled to any damages.

In May of last year the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the dismissal [JURIST report] of a consolidated lawsuit brought against various tobacco companies. In August 2014 the World Health Organization called for strict regulation [JURIST report] of electronic cigarettes, including a ban on the usage of the devices in public places and advertising targeting minors. In June 2014 the Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand approved a new regulation [JURIST report] requiring packs of cigarettes in the country to be 85 percent covered with graphic health warnings. In February 2014 the EU Parliament [official website] voted to approve an anti-tobacco law [JURIST report] that requires cigarette makers to increase the size of health warnings on packets from 30 percent to 65 percent of the surface of the package.

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