Tobacco Companies Ordered to Pay C$15.6 Billion to Quebec Smokers

From CorpWatch

Over one million people in the Canadian province of Quebec will receive a total of C$15.6 billion ($12.5 billion) in damages for smoking related diseases from three of the biggest tobacco companies in the country. The settlement is the result of a 17 year long court battle.

Imperial Tobacco Canada was ordered to pay C$10.5 billion ($8.4 billion), Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, a subsidiary of Philip Morris, was told to pay C$3.1 billion ($2.5 billion) and Japan Tobacco International-Macdonald has to pay C$2 billion. ($1.6 billion)

The lawsuits were initially brought by two individual smokers – Cecilia Letourneau and Jean-Yves Blais – in 1998. Blais died of lung cancer in 2012, the same year that the courts began hearing the case.

“When my husband started smoking in the 1950s at the age of 10 he didn’t know the risks linked to cigarettes,” said his widow, Lise Blais, in a press statement. “He tried several times to stop smoking but never succeeded.”

The court heard from 78 witnesses and reviewed more than 43,000 documents. The tobacco companies tried to claim that Canadians were aware of the problems associated with smoking. Imperial Tobacco cited a 1963 Gallup poll that estimated 96 percent of Canadians were aware of the health risks of tobacco use.


Kazakh Oil Consortium Accused of “Mass Poisoning” of Village School Children

From CorpWatch

A Kazakh oil consortium has been accused of “mass poisoning” after 25 school children and four teachers passed out almost simultaneously at a school in Berezovka village in northwest Kazakhstan. The incident is the latest in a decade of allegations of pollution caused by the neighboring Karachaganak oil field.

Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V. (KPO) is a joint venture among multiple stakeholders that were awarded the exclusive rights to extract oil from the Karachaganak reserves in 1997. BG Group of the UK and ENI of Italy each hold 29.25 percent while Chevron from the U.S., Lukoil from Russia and nationally owned KuzMunaiGas hold smaller stakes.

“The emergency situation which arose on November 28 is not surprising. This is a direct result of omissions by the public authorities, and violations by KPO of the requirements for environmental and industrial safety,” said Sergey Solyanik, a lawyer with Crude Accountability, a U.S. based NGO.