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…A statement from Philip Morris (via Reuters) said that the firm “disputed several regulations” that “go far beyond public health objectives” of Uruguay.
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.
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.
Online Sources- La Republica, The Guardian, BusinessWeek, MSNBC, AFP, New York Times,