Brazilian tobacco giant forced to pay ex-smoker's cancer treatment

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RIO DE JANEIRO--In what is the most serious indictment against a tobacco company ever in Brazil, B.A.T.-owned Souza Cruz, the country's leading cigarette producer, has been ordered by a local court to pay for the cancer treatment of an ex-smoker.

A local court in Alagoas, northern Brazil, where the cancer victim lives, has demanded that Souza Cruz pay an initial $30,000 deposit to start paying towards cancer treatment. If Souza Cruz fails to pay the deposit, it faces daily fines of $16,000.

Cancer victim Joao Jorge Lopes, 42, is said to need immediate treatment. He took up smoking at the early age of 13, reaching his top consumption of four packets a day. Mr. Lopes' lawyer also wants Souza Cruz to pay $2.5 million towards physical, material and emotional loss suffered by his client.

The case is believed to be the first of 70 lawsuits to have ended in a tobacco company paying compensation to a previous customer.

According to Health Ministry research, at least 38 million Brazilians took up smoking at the age of 13.

Copyright July 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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