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Brazil sues BAT, Philip Morris to recover public health costs

The government of Brazil has filed a lawsuit against tobacco companies British American Tobacco PLC and Philip Morris International Inc. to recover public health expenses related to the treatment of tobacco-related diseases over the last five years, Reuters reported May 22, citing the country's solicitor general's office, or the AGU.

According to the report, the AGU said the lawsuit aims to retrieve the costs of treating patients for 26 diseases linked to smoking and second-hand smoke. The costs will be calculated if the government wins the lawsuit, the news wire said.

The companies — through their local subsidiaries Souza Cruz Ltda, Philip Morris Brasil Industria e Comercio Ltda and Philip Morris Brasil SA — produce about 90% of the cigarettes sold in the country, the report said.

More than 156,000 people in Brazil die annually from tobacco-related illnesses, which also cost the country 57 billion Brazilian reais in treatment expenses, Reuters said, citing data from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Philip Morris and BAT did not immediately respond to requests for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

As of May 21, US$1 was equivalent to 4.06 Brazilian reais.