The Nigerian government has filed a lawsuit against British American Tobacco Plc, Philip Morris Inc. and International Tobacco Ltd. claiming damages including for the anticipated burden that tobacco-related ailments will place on public health services.
The government is also demanding a ruling forbidding the sale of tobacco near schools and other places where children may gather.
The case could not be opened officially Monday because government lawyers said Philip Morris had yet to be served court papers. Presiding Judge Binta Murtala-Nyako adjourned the proceedings until March 17.
None of the tobacco companies were immediately available for comment and company lawyers made no comment in court. Local media reported that the firms denied the claims made by Nigeria.
Tobacco companies have in recent years stepped up their marketing campaigns in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. Nigeria is the continent's most populous country with 140 million people.
For adolescents, smoking can function as a first step out of childhood or as an act of rebellion against the adult world.
Tobacco-related diseases are some of the biggest killers in the world today and are cited as one of the biggest cause of premature death in industrial countries. In the United States some 500,000 deaths per year are attributed to smoking-related diseases and a recent study estimated that as much as 1/3 of China's male population will have shortened life-spans due to smoking.