Saudi Arabia's main cancer hospital will sue tobacco firms and their agents in the kingdom for 2.9 billion dollars to recompense 25 years of treatment of smoking-related illnesses, a health executive said in remarks published Thursday.
Executive general manager of King Faisal Specialist Hospital (KFSH), Anwar al-Jabarti, said the decision was taken after negotiations with tobacco firms held earlier this year in Geneva ended without an agreement.
The hospital will file a lawsuit in Saudi courts "soon", while more cases will be filed in the United States and Europe at a later date, Jabarti said, quoted by newspapers.
A team of Saudi and foreign legal experts are currently taking the necessary procedures to file the case, he said.
KFSH claims it has treated some three million patients over the past 25 years for illnesses caused directly or indirectly by smoking, at a cost of almost three billion dollars.
The hospital is the main health facility in oil-rich Saudi Arabia for the treatment of cancer and other major diseases.
Jabarti said the hospital holds a complete account of cancer cases in the kingdom and the number of tumours in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and this will be submitted with the lawsuit.
Saudi Arabia, with a population of 22 million, including 16.5 million Saudi nationals, has one of the highest smoking rates in the world despite decisions to hike customs duty on cigarettes to 100 percent.
The government is contemplating doubling the duty on tobacco products to 200 percent -- AFP
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