Some two million smokers and ex-smokers in Canada have launched the country’s biggest-ever lawsuit against tobacco giants, in the province of Quebec.
Jean-Yves started when he was ten. Now in his sixties, he says he can not quit even though he has cancer.
The plaintiffs say Imperial Tobacco, JTI MacDonald and Rothmans Benson & Hedges hid the risks of consuming their products.
The smokers group is claiming the equivalent of around 20 billion euros in compensation.
Quebec Council on Tobacco & Health spokesman Mario Bujold said: “They are sick. They have problems and they want justice for what they suffer.”
A class action lawsuit in the US led to a 250 billion dollar payout. Meanwhile, other Canadian provinces are set to pursue tobacco companies over healthcare costs.
The companies say ‘but the dangers of smoking have been known for decades’, and a lawyer at in the case in Montreal suggested it was also up to individual’s to use their heads.
Imperial Tobacco lawyer Deborah Glendinning said: “Smoking is something that people choose to do for many reasons and they have to take the responsibility to smoke.”
The Canadian Cancer Society says most people who take up smoking today are not even 18 yet, and insists that levels of awareness vary, in spite of all the information available about consequences.
A US report last week said one out of four high school seniors smoke regularly, and that 80 percent of them will keep on smoking into their adult years.
Critics also say that the wealthy industry uses every tool at its disposal.
Two weeks ago in the US, a judge sided with tobacco companies, saying that an attempt to force them to put large graphic health warnings on packaging and advertising violated free-speech rights under the Constitution.
In spite of the statistics about illnesses and deaths attributed to smoking, governments have also come in for criticism since it is still legal.
Plaintiffs in Montreal said first advertising made smoking seem ‘cool’; after that they got hooked.