British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and the local KT&G Corporation are being sued for at least 53.7 billion won (£31 million) by South Korea’s national health insurance body.
National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) is seeking compensation for the costs of healthcare linked to smoking-related diseases.
“It is the duty of NHIS to take responsibility for people’s health and to manage insurance finances,” the agency said. “Smoking is a serious issue affecting people, particularly the youth and women. So we will push ahead with this suit with a strong determination, for the future of our nation and sustainability of our health insurance.”
South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that there was no causal link between cigarettes and cancer. But NHIS said in its court statement that it would show the two are linked and added that it planned to increase its compensation claim during the legal process. It said it spends at least 1.7 trillion won a year on health issues related to smoking.
A BAT spokesman said: “This is an ongoing case and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”