Canadian smokers seeking $27 billion

March 12, 2012 at 8:41 PM

MONTREAL, March 12 (UPI) -- A class-action lawsuit brought by smokers seeking up to $27 billion in damages from the tobacco industry went to trial in Canada Monday.

The smokers, who sued on behalf of 2 million smokers, charge Imperial Tobacco, JTI MacDonald and Rothmans Benson & Hedges with pushing the addictive habit despite the health risks.

The civil trial in Montreal could take more than a year.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported a few plaintiffs spoke to reporters during a break in the proceedings.

"Smoking was in fashion. I chose to smoke to show I was 'in,'" said plaintiff Cecilia Letourneau.

"Everyone smoked back then. To be like the others, I smoked. And I got hooked pretty fast," said Jean-Yves Blais, who began smoking when he was 10.

Deborah Glendinning, an attorney representing Imperial Tobacco, said the plaintiffs bear some of the responsibility for their decisions.

"Just because it's a legal product doesn't absolve us of liability, but just because there's risks and dangers associated with it doesn't mean we're automatically at fault, either," Glendinning said during a break.

"I'm looking very forward to seeing what kind of proof they can bring because I don't think they've got it and I believe we will ultimately be successful," Glendinning said.

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