Philip Morris Charging Uruguay over Smoking Ban

Tobacco company Philip Morris is charging Uruguay in a world court over a smoking ban that it declares affecting its economic outlooks. The extraordinary judicial trial, if successful will summon Uruguay before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Anti-tobacco representatives have welcomed Uruguay’s firm attitude on tobacco products and smoking. A lot of scientists declare that Philip Morris have chosen a small Latin America country for potentially precedent-creating litigation instead of working with major countries in the West.

Uruguay and smoking ban

As legal abridgements have targeted smoking in public places, public transport and workplaces in the majority of developed countries in the Western Hemisphere, smoking rate has increased and continues to grow in emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Uruguay initiated its campaign against tobacco consumption approximately four years ago and continued changes in government.

Former Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez prohibited smoking in public places and after some months the government made the given ban even tougher. A complete ban on tobacco advertising was intensified with a demand for cigarette producers to place visible graphic warnings in cigarette packages.

The Uruguayan ban didn’t spare cigarettes advertised as “light”. The first trial by Philip Morris was considered as a potential test case in which the producer appeared encouraged by the Latin American country’s rather small size and supposed that it would have enough powers to struggle the given case in an international forum. U.S. lawyer Paul Reichler, is expected to conduct the defense.

Uruguay government is within its right to protect the health of its citizens.

Reichler, declared at a press conference that the defense would examine the Philip Morris argument that Montevideo was obliged by an agreement to protect investments.

In order to oppose that argument, the defense would have to debate that the government was completely within its rights not to permit economic activities that harm the public health.

“The treaty ascertains that by sovereignty Uruguay has the right to ban hazardous activities. With its anti-tobacco laws the country doesn’t try to affect the investments of Philip Morris, it only adopts some limits to an activity that has its aim to advertize and promote dangerous products,” stated Reichler.

International health association declared that they agree with Uruguay’s decision not to concede to pressure from Philip Morris.

The associations involved in include: American Cancer Society, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Framework Convention Alliance and many others.

Uruguay’s smoking laws are considered some of the toughest in the world, for instance the graphic warnings cover 80% of the package. The laws also include the policy of one package per brand that was introduced in order to prevent tobacco industry’s use of colored cigarette packages and the use of such descriptions as “light” and “low tar”.

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