French tobacco giant sued

Mathew Horsman

The French tobacco giant Seita has been hit for the second time in a week by a lawsuit accusing it of causing a smoker's cancer.

The latest lawsuit, only the second legal case of its kind brought in France, was filed in Beziers by the family of a young woman who died of lung cancer last October, and who had smoked Seita's Gauloises Brunes for 20 years.

The lawsuit, reminiscent of a slew of cases in the US, accuses the recently privatised tobacco maker of selling an "inherently dangerous'' product due to its addictive properties and its link with cancer, and seeks more than Fr1m (pounds 120,000) in damages and interest.

Seita shares slumped during light trading in Paris. But the company immediately struck back, declaring itself to be "confident" about the outcome of the case.

The company pointed out that all cigarette packets stated nicotine and tar levels and carried a government health warning. In the earlier lawsuit, a two-pack-a-day Gauloise smoker who is near death demanded Fr2.7m in damages.