Nigeria has launched a $40 billion lawsuit against Philip Morris and two other major tobacco companies, claiming they deliberately market cigarettes to children. Its government is demanding punitive damages and compensation for current and future health care costs, reports the BBC. A spokesman for the largest of the three, British American Tobacco, said that the action was "flawed" and insisted that the firm does not target young smokers.
The lawsuit, which also names International Tobacco, demands that cigarettes not be sold near schools or other places young people gather. The move is said to have been inspired by similar US cases. Tobacco companies have stepped up marketing in African countries in response to falling sales elsewhere. As many as 18% of Nigeria's young people smoke, according to the World Health Organization.