London/Montreal — In the latest blow to tobacco companies seeking relief from lawsuits, the Canadian units of British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco were ordered to pay damages of about C$17bn (R181bn) after losing an appeal of class actions filed by Queec smokers. British American Tobacco's shares opened 3.5% lower on the JSE at R517.50 on Monday. The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision with minor changes, according to a ruling released on Friday. The lawsuits were in favour of smokers seeking damages for addiction and smoking-related diseases, who argued they were never warned of the risks. “The risks associated with smoking have been known in Canada for decades. Consumers were aware and that’s why we think we shouldn’t be held responsible” said Eric Gagnon, the head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Imperial Tobacco Canada, BAT’s Canadian unit. ‘‘Today’s judgment is disappointing.” Gagnon told reporters outside the court in Montreal...

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