The Quebec government announced on Friday it is launching a $60-billion lawsuit against 11 tobacco manufacturers.

The legal action comes nearly three years after the province passed legislation to seek damages from cigarette makers for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses.

The suit covers a 60-year period between 1970 and 2030.

The lawsuit alleges that tobacco companies hid the health risks of smoking for several years and should be held liable.

Health Minister, Yves Bolduc, said that there is a progressive control over smoking but that there are no plans to ban the sale of tobacco products.

Quebec's Justice Minister, Jean-Marc Fournier, said Quebecers were led to believe smoking would not hurt them.

Imperial Tobacco Canada is opposing the government's decision by launching a lawsuit against the Quebec legislation.

"This lawsuit is a cash grab by a provincial government looking to score political points while conveniently forgetting that it has been a senior partner in the tobacco industry for decades," said Donald McCarthy, vice-president of law for Imperial Tobacco Canada. "Governments have licensed us, have taxed us and our consumers, and have regulated us, all in full knowledge of the risks associated with tobacco use."

Quebec is the fifth Canadian province to launch a suit against the tobacco companies.  British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have already filed legal action against the cigarette makers.