The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is supporting the Government of Uruguay as it defends its tobacco control policies against claims brought by the Philip Morris tobacco company.
PAHO/WHO views Uruguay's laws and regulations aimed at reducing tobacco consumption as aligned with the provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the world's first international public health treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. In force since 2005, the FCTC obliges its States Parties to apply a series of policies and measures to reduce tobacco consumption and protect their populations against second hand smoke.
Uruguay's continuing efforts to protect its population against tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke, despite challenges by the tobacco industry, demonstrate that the country will not be intimidated by the industry, said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. PAHO/WHO supports Uruguay's defence of these measures, which are aimed at saving lives, and recognizes it as a role model for the Region and the world.
Uruguay presented written arguments defending its tobacco control efforts earlier this month at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Philip Morris's claim alleges that Uruguay's public health measures violate the company's trade rights established in investment agreements between Uruguay and Switzerland, where the company is headquartered.
The claim was first presented in February 2010, after Uruguay implemented regulations requiring health warnings to cover 80% of the main surface of tobacco packages, and limiting tobacco manufacturers to one unique package per cigarette brand.
Despite the industry's legal challenge, Uruguay this year completed its ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship by implementing a new prohibition on product promotion and display at the point of sale. In addition, in September, Uruguay became the second country (after Nicaragua) to ratify the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, a new international treaty and the first FCTC protocol.
A 2012 study published in The Lancet showed an average 23% decline in tobacco consumption in Uruguay between 2005 and 2011. The decline was more pronounced among young people. A separate 2011 study showed an association between the implementation of regulations mandating smoke-free public places in Uruguay and a 22% decline in hospitalizations due to acute myocardial infarction.
In October, delegates to the sixth meeting of FCTC States Parties, held in Moscow, took a series of decisions aimed at protecting tobacco control policies from tobacco industry efforts to undermine those policies, and regarding the application of the FCTC article on legal responsibility for damages caused by tobacco consumption, among others.
Currently 30 of 35 countries in the Americas have ratified the FCTC, which calls for tobacco control measures including the use of graphic warnings on tobacco packaging; monitoring of tobacco consumption; measures to protect the population from second-hand smoke; support for smoking cessation; enforcement of bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and increased taxes on tobacco.
Tobacco kills some 6 million people worldwide each year, both through direct consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke. At least 1 million of these deaths occur in the Americas.
PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.