Physicians for a smoke-free Canada | Aug 12, 2010
Philip Morris International claims against Uruguay without merit.
Legal analysis concludes Uruguay’s new tobacco regulations are consistent with international law
OTTAWA, CANADA AND MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY—(Marketwire - Aug. 12, 2010)— A legal analysis of the challenge launched by Philip Morris International (PMI) found the company to be both unjustified and unreasonable in its opposition to Uruguay’s new tobacco packaging laws.
"In my opinion" said the report’s author, Todd Weiler," the claim is nothing more than the cynical attempt by a wealthy multinational corporation to make an example of a small country with limited resources to defend against a well-funded international legal action, but with a well-deserved reputation as a worldwide leader in tobacco control."
In March 2010, three subsidiaries of USA-based Philip Morris International (PMI) launched a damages claim against the Government of Uruguay under the Switzerland - Uruguay Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Foreign Investments. The companies claimed that their rights under this agreement were impaired by Uruguay’s requirements for health warnings that covered 80% of the cigarette package and by regulations to end the industry practice of colour-coding cigarette packages.
"Uruguay has taken a state-of-the art approach to implementing the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (the FCTC)," said Neil Collishaw of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, which commissioned Mr. Weiler’s opinion. "Uruguay’s new regulations raise the bar for measures to reduce smoking, but are entirely consistent with the World Health Organization treaty’s obligations for health warnings and controls on deceptive packaging." Mr. Collishaw suggested that Philip Morris’ intention is to force Uruguay to abandon its regulation and thus discourage other countries from adopting similarly strong packaging laws.
The investment treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland is similar to over 2,000 other treaties currently in force worldwide. "Any country that has a bilateral investment treaty with either Switzerland or the USA could face a similar challenge from Philip Morris. The tobacco control measures of dozens of developing countries could be put at risk," said Mr. Weiler.
Neil Collishaw emphasized the worldwide support for Uruguay’s defence against Philip Morris’ bullying. "Philip Morris may think they can pick on a country half its size, but we expect the global health community will line up to support Uruguay’s efforts."
Dr. Eduardo Bianco is a cardiologist in Montevideo and president of Uruguay’s leading tobacco control organization, CIET. "What is happening today in Uruguay could happen to any country that implements very effective tobacco control measures," he said. "As a Uruguayan and a health promoter, I welcome assistance for our work."
Todd Weiler’s opinion, "Philip Morris vs. Uruguay: An Analysis of Tobacco Control Measures in the Context of International Investment Law" was made public today. A copy of the Philip Morris Complaint and the Legal Opinion can and Spanish translations can be found at www.smoke-free.ca. [www.smoke-free.ca/eng_home/2010/news_press_August12_2010.htm]. Information on tobacco in Uruguay can be found at www.cieturuguay.org
For further information:
Neil Collishaw, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, (Canada) 613 233 4878
Todd Weiler, author of legal opinion, (Canada) 613 686 3636
Eduardo Bianco, MD, Uruguayan Center for Research on the Tobacco Epidemic, (Uruguay) (598) 94 416559