Nations Support Uruguay Against Threat by Philip Morris International, Declare Governments Have Right to Implement Effective Tobacco Control Policies

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Nov. 18 2010

PUNTA DEL ESTE, URUGUAY - Nations meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay, on the world's first public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), today approved a declaration supporting Uruguay's efforts to protect its strong tobacco control laws against a legal challenge by Philip Morris International. Delegates approved a declaration, presented by Uruguay, that supports the right of nations to implement the treaty free from "actions taken by the tobacco industry that seek to subvert and undermine government policies on tobacco control."

The declaration represents a clear statement by the 147 nations represented at the Punta del Este conference that Uruguay and other countries have a clear sovereign right to take strong actions that protect their citizens from tobacco without interference from the tobacco industry.

In February 2010, Philip Morris International (PMI) filed a suit against Uruguay's strong tobacco control laws, which require large, graphic health warnings and limit each cigarette brand to one pack design, eliminating misleading descriptions such as "light" and "low."

PMI is using its financial power to bully Uruguay into weakening its strong tobacco control laws. The world's largest multinational tobacco company is using the suit to make an example of Uruguay and intimidate other developing countries with limited resource to defend their tobacco control laws from expensive litigation.

Understanding they could be the target of PMI's next legal challenge, countries that ratified the FCTC adopted the "Punta del Este Declaration on the Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control." In addition to stating their concern about the tobacco industry's actions to undermine the treaty, the declaration states that "parties have the right to define and implement national public health policies pursuant with conventions and commitments under WHO, particularly with the WHO FCTC."

Countries, including Uruguay, have a sovereign right to make their own determinations on how to protect the health of their citizens. Countries, not tobacco companies, should be determining the appropriate action to take to protect public health and reduce the devastating toll of tobacco use.

The declaration also expresses a need to exchange information at a national and international level on tobacco industry activities to interfere with implementation of strong tobacco control policies, and to include the topic "challenges to tobacco control" in the 2011 United Nations summit on non-communicable diseases.

We congratulate the nations at the fourth Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control for joining international public health groups in sending a strong message to the tobacco industry: Tobacco companies cannot bully and intimidate nations against taking actions that protect the health of their citizens.

 

Media Contacts