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.