The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC and WHO applaud the Brazilian government’s action to seek compensation from tobacco companies

23 May 2019

On 21 May, the Office of the Attorney-General of Brazil filed a lawsuit at the Federal Court of Rio Grande do Sul against the largest tobacco corporations in Brazil and their parent companies abroad, to seek recovery of healthcare costs related to the treatment of tobacco-induced diseases. The claim covers costs generated in the Brazilian healthcare system for the treatment of patients suffering from 26 diseases linked to the consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke, and foresees proportional compensation for future spending, and collective moral damages, as a consequence of the tobacco public health burden.

In its related press release , the Office of the Attorney-General of Brazil pointed out that according to studies carried out in the country, the public health spending triggered by tobacco consumption amounts to tens of billions of Reais annually. It also refers to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), calling for Governments to take the necessary measures to deal with civil liability, including compensation, for the purpose of tobacco control.

The WHO FCTC is currently implemented by 181 Parties, determined to give priority to their right to protect public health. WHO holds that the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year. Tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke is known to dramatically raise the cost of health care, among other costly impacts on society.

In Article 4.5 of the WHO FCTC, Parties recognize, as a guiding principle to the implementation of the Convention, that issues related to liability, as determined by each Party within its jurisdiction, are an important part of comprehensive tobacco control. The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC aims to support Parties with information that will help them better understand and address issues related to liability, including on healthcare cost recovery, through tools such as the WHO FCTC Article 19 Civil Liability Toolkit, launched in March 2017.

The WHO FCTC equips Parties with means to tackle the burden that tobacco places on people and national health systems. The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC and WHO applaud the Brazilian government’s action to seek compensation from multinational tobacco companies for the social and economic costs of suffering and healthcare resulting from tobacco-related disease.