Big Tobacco blocks treaty progress toward saving lives

For Immediate Release:
October 4, 2010

Contact:
Christina Rossi, 617-447-2540

Good afternoon. I am Yul Francisco Dorado, Corporate Accountability International’s Latin America Campaign Director.

Latin America is a growing market, 845,000 people die yearly because of the tobacco epidemic. Nearly every country on the continent has unified behind the treaty, building the political will to confront the tobacco industry despite its economic and political might.

In recognition of these efforts, the global community has honored Latin America with the distinction of hosting the next treaty meeting in Uruguay.

The primary example is the bullying tactics of Philip Morris International. Uruguay has always been a leader in tobacco control initiatives for the region, and the world. In 2009, Uruguay became the first country in the world to adopt legislation requiring 80% graphic health information on packaging, including pictorial warnings.

Nearly a year after the passage of the legislation, and on the day the new government took office, PMI filed a legal challenge against the government of Uruguay in the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investments Disputes (ICSID).  NGOs in Uruguay went on to expose a PMI scheme to withdraw its lawsuit if the government would enter into negotiations with the tobacco giant to weaken the health warning requirements. It is clear that PMI wants to intimidate ratifying countries, mark its territory and bully treaty implementation efforts into extinction.

After an outpouring of international support, the government of Uruguay did not negotiate with PMI. However, the case continues to unfold and PMI is not giving up its efforts to weaken the country’s tobacco control mandates. As Parties make preparations to attend this meeting in Uruguay, PMI is showing all of the countries around the world the lengths it will go to block effective public health policies.

Other countries in the region also feel tobacco industry pressure and interference: In Guatemala the industry proposed a constitutional claim challenging the provision recognizing 100% smoke-free areas, which has since been denied. In Paraguay, congressional allies of the tobacco industry secured approval of a bill repealing the decrees that establish 100% smoke-free spaces, pictorial health warnings. In Argentina the industry continues to fight against treaty ratification. In Colombia the governments have signed agreements with tobacco corporations to address policies of tobacco leaf cultivation and illicit trade. In Costa Rica and Ecuador the industry has prevented the issuance of legislation to fully implement the treaty. We continue to record cases of ongoing tobacco industry interference.

This week actions across Latin America and the globe are challenging other tobacco industry interference and demonstrating solidarity with Uruguay in the lead-up to a major gathering of civil society in Punta del Este on November 15-20 to support the country’s resisting Big Tobacco bullying.

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