Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ex-Uruguay president blasts Philip Morris

Under then-President Tabare Vazquez, Uruguay became one of the world's strongest anti-tobacco countries. Since 2006 smoking is barred in public places and the former cancer specialist prohibited all tobacco advertising. Though Vazquez has been out of the presidency since last March he has not shied away from emphasizing the ill effects of smoking as well as criticizing tobacco multinationals.

During a speech given at a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Montevideo, Vazquez accused Philip Morris of unfairly trying to “intimidate” countries like Uruguay. Philip Morris “like all tobacco companies does not care for the health of their consumers” said Vazquez who also accused the firm of attempting to “punish” Uruguay due to the anti-smoking laws. “Tobacco, like war, produces deaths among citizens around the world while enriching a few," said Vasquez at the conference.

Earlier this year Philip Morris filed for arbitration at the World Bank against the Uruguay government. The company claimed that the tobacco restrictions violated signed trade pacts and that they also unjustly hurt business with the South American country. In July current president Jose Mujica partially caved into pressure from the tobacco giant by modifying the anti-smoking laws. Yet he reversed himself in September by strengthening the ban on smoking indoors.

At the WHO meeting this week, Mujica refused to bow down completely to the tobacco industry:
President Jose Mujica described Uruguay Monday as a "laboratory of confrontation" with Big Tobacco…

Mujica said the trade violation claim seeks to "complicate the life and sovereignty of a small nation that has the boldness to defend itself and try to defend the health of its people."

He said Uruguay will maintain its anti-smoking laws despite the pressure.
A statement from Philip Morris (via Reuters) said that the firm “disputed several regulations” that “go far beyond public health objectives” of Uruguay.

Uruguay’s push against tobacco has earned praise not only from health care advocates worldwide but also from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On Monday he reportedly pledged $375 million of his own money to pay for Uruguay’s legal defense.

Image- trussel.com
Online Sources- La Republica, The Guardian, BusinessWeek, MSNBC, AFP, New York Times,

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