Big Tobacco Ordered to Pay $12.5 Billion to Canadian Smokers

Ouch! This will sure hurt the tobacco industry’s hip pocket in a big way.

Earlier this week, tobacco giants JTI-Macdonald, Imperial Tobacco, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges were ordered by a Canadian judge to pay a whopping $12.5 billion ($15 billion Canadian) to two groups of plaintiffs.

According to AP, Superior Court Justice Brian Riordan said the tobacco companies’ failed to advise the Canadian health authorities or the public about what they knew about the harmful effects of their products.

The judge said the tobacco companies had chosen profits over the health of their customers.

“The companies earned billions of dollars at the expense of the lungs, the throats, and the general well-being of their customers,” said Judge Brian Riordan.

“If the companies are allowed to walk away unscathed now, what would be the message to other industries that today or tomorrow find themselves in a similar moral conflict?”

After a 17-year legal battle, big tobacco firms now must pay US$12.5 billion) in damages to Quebec smokers. (Emil_95/Flickr)

After a 17-year legal battle, big tobacco firms now must pay US$12.5 billion in damages to Quebec smokers. (Emil_95/Flickr)

The tobacco companies have been ordered to provide initial compensation of more than US$800 million ($1 billion Canadian) within the next 60 days. What’s more, the tobacco companies have do this regardless of whether they elect to appeal (of which they say they will).

The lawsuits were first filed way back in 1998, but only recently went to trial, reports the BBC.

The plaintiffs—tens of thousands of Quebecers—say that smoking either made them seriously ill or addicted to the habit.

The court says the three tobacco companies will split the $12.5 billion payout according to responsibility:

  • Imperial Tobacco will pay 67 per cent
  • Rothmans, Benson & Hedges will pay 20 per cent
  • JTI-Macdonald will pay 13 per cent
Big tobacco says their customers understand the risks of smoking. (Philip Bitnar/Flickr)

Big tobacco says their customers understood the risks of smoking. (Philip Bitnar/Flickr)

The tobacco industry has contended that its customers were aware of smoking’s risks, and that their products were sold legally and under strict regulation.

“These cases are far from over,” RBH spokeswoman Anne Edwards said in a statement, according to Reuters. “We will vigorously appeal this lower court’s judgment.”

JTI-Macdonald also noted that health warnings have been on cigarette packages for over 40 years.

The Marlborough Man in Indonesia

See a 2012 report about how tobacco companies take advantage of the lack of deregulation in Indonesia below:

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