Uruguay Moves to Implement Presidential Decree on Plain Tobacco Packaging, Must Stand Strong Against Tobacco Industry Challenges


August 30, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Following an August 6 decree from Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay mandating that tobacco products be sold in plain packaging, the government of Uruguay has issued regulations putting plain packaging into effect beginning February, 2019. This move makes Uruguay the first country in the Americas to implement plain packaging, and adds to global momentum for plain tobacco packaging, a proven public health measure increasingly implemented by countries to help address the burden of tobacco-related death and disease.

“This rapid implementation of plain tobacco packaging further cements the legacy of President Vázquez and his government as leaders in the global movement to protect citizens’ health by reducing tobacco use,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Evidence from around the world shows increasingly that plain packaging works to reduce tobacco use as part of countries’ tobacco control strategies. This is why tobacco companies fear plain packaging and fight so hard to block it.”

“President Vázquez has again demonstrated his leadership and courage in taking action to protect the citizens of Uruguay despite never-ending opposition from tobacco companies,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Bloomberg Philanthropies Founder. “Under the president’s leadership, Uruguay is now the first country in the Americas to implement plain packaging. As they have before, it is possible that the tobacco companies will try to challenge this law, but I know President Vázquez will continue to stand strong to protect the health of his people and serve as an example to other national leaders. He can count on my support and the support of the global community if they do so.”

The decree effectively prohibits any design, logo or promotional elements on the inside and outside of tobacco packs; requires packs to be a specified dull brown color and be a standard shape and size; allows brand names only in a standardized color and font; maintains health warnings covering 80 percent of tobacco packages; and limits tobacco brands to a single presentation or variant. In Australia, following the implementation of plain packaging and other tobacco control measures, smoking rates dropped at the fastest pace in more than two decades.

Multinational tobacco companies like Philip Morris International have repeatedly challenged Uruguay’s tobacco control laws in the country’s own courts and in international tribunals. Each time, the government of Uruguay has stood up to these challenges and defeated the tobacco companies.

Other countries including Australia, the U.K., France, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway have already implemented plain packaging and governments in many other countries are formally considering the measure or have given strong political commitments. In Latin America, countries including Chile, Panama, Ecuador, and Brazil are considering cigarette packaging bills.

With the introduction of proven public health policies like 100 percent smoke-free laws, graphic health warnings, higher tobacco taxes and advertising bans, Uruguay has already reduced tobacco use among youth by 65 percent and 28 percent among adults.

Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization. By 2030, the number of tobacco-related deaths will increase to 8 million each year unless more countries act to reverse current trends.