(By Bonny Apunyu)
Three Tobacco Companies in Canada were on Monday ordered by a Quebec Superior Court to pay Canadian dollars 15.5 billion or (US12.4 billion) to nearly one million smokers in Quebec province who claimed they were never warned about the health risks associated with smoking.
According to AFP, Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald said they would appeal the award for moral and punitive damages, which is the largest in Canadian history. According to reports, the lawsuits 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.
AFP reported the tobacco companies as saying 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."