November 16, 2010 - The fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is being held at the conference centre of the Conrad Hotel in Punta del Este, Uruguay. (Uruguay is the second smallest nation of South America in area after Suriname. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.4 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area. An estimated 88% of the population are of European descent. Uruguay..)
President Jose Mujica described Uruguay Monday as a "laboratory of confrontation" with Big Tobacco. Philip Morris International Inc., the world's second-biggest cigarette company after the state-controlled China National Tobacco Corp., is pursuing a claim before World Bank arbitrators alleging that Uruguay is violating its trade agreement with Switzerland by requiring that anti-smoking warnings cover 80 percent of cigarette packages.
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.
The president spoke at the opening of a summit representing 170 countries that have signed a global tobacco control treaty established in 2003. The summit's goal is to analyze and support policies that reduce smoking globally. The meeting is sponsored by the World Health Organization, which says tobacco kills five million people a year around the world.
Earlier this year Philip Morris, which sells Marlboro and other brands in more than 160 countries, filed for arbitration at the World Bank's international centre for settlement of investment disputes (ICSID), claiming the restrictions hurt its business and violated Uruguay's trade deal with Switzerland.
Uruguay: Philip Morris files first-known investment treaty claim against tobacco regulations by Luke Eric Peterson, 3/3/2010)
Directly related news brief: Uruguay - has promised to water down anti-smoking laws after pressure from the tobacco giant Philip Morris International..;
Reference: World Health Organization takes on tobacco lobby, Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/15/2010.