The Canadian province of Quebec has announced that it is suing tobacco giants for more than $60 billion in a bid to recover health care costs associated with smoking-related illnesses.
The lawsuit targets the Canadian tobacco companies and their parent companies abroad and seeks damages related to the cost of treating patients from the 1970s until 2030, Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fourner said.
"These manufacturers neglected to warn consumers, including children and teenagers, about the harmful aspects of their products," Fournier said on Friday, blasting the tobacco industry for targeting young people in advertisement campaigns.
Big Tobacco had anticipated the filing, with Donald McCarty, Imperial Tobacco Canada's vice president of law, immediately condemning the move as a "cash grab" by the provincial government.
McCarty said the Quebec administration was "looking to score political points while conveniently forgetting that it has been a senior partner in the tobacco industry for decades.
"Governments have licensed us, have taxed us and our consumers, and have regulated us, all in full knowledge of the risks associated with tobacco use," he said.
Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland have already launched similar lawsuits but Quebec's, for more than 60bn Canadian dollars ($58bn), is by far the biggest so far.
Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are to file suits shortly, and Alberta has indicated it will also seek damages.