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Canada court orders tobacco firms to pay smokers Can$15.5 bn

cigarettesA Canadian court on Monday ordered tobacco firms to pay Can$15.5 billion (US$12.4 billion) to smokers in Quebec who claimed they were never warned about health risks linked to smoking.

Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald said they would appeal the award for moral and punitive damages, which is the largest in Canadian history.

The two class action lawsuits behind the award were originally filed in 1998, but only went to trial recently. They represent nearly one million smokers who were unable to quit or who suffer from throat or lung cancer, or emphysema.

The plaintiffs argued that the companies neglected to properly warn their customers about the dangers of smoking, and failed in their general duty “not to cause injury to another person,” according to the Quebec Superior Court decision.

They also accused the firms of unscrupulous marketing and of destroyed documents relevant to the case.

The companies said the court’s decision is not supported by the evidence presented at trial, and vowed to try to overturn it on appeal.

“Since the 1950s, Canadians have had a very high awareness of the health risks of smoking,” JTI-Macdonald said in a statement.

“That awareness has been reinforced by the health warnings printed on every legal cigarette package for more than 40 years.”

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