Deadline given

British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International have until early March to defend themselves in a lawsuit in Brazil about compensation for tobacco-related diseases, reports Reuters.

The lawsuit was filed by the solicitor general’s office in May 2019, seeking to recover the costs for the treatment of 26 tobacco-related diseases over the previous five years.

The companies have refused to receive subpoenas delivered to their local subsidiaries (Souza Cruz Ltda, Philip Morris Brasil Industra e Comercio Ltda and Philip Morris Brasil) since last year. The companies, which produce 90 percent of the cigarettes sold in Brazil, maintained they were only subsidiaries and notifications had to be sent directly to their respective parent companies’ headquarters in Britain and the United States.

The federal judge hearing the case ruled that the companies are operational wings of the parent companies and can relate messages to their respective head offices. The judge gave them 30 days to present their defenses.

“It is very important that international headquarters are also held accountable,” said Adriana Carvalho, the Alliance to Control Smoking’s legal director. “They profit from the business in Brazil and have always exercised power of control over their Brazilian units.”