The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Media Releases

International Public Health Groups Applaud Uruguay’s Refusal to Weaken Tobacco Control


MONTEVIDEO, 30 July 2010 – International health groups strongly support the Government of Uruguay’s decision not to bow to pressure from Philip Morris International (PMI) which filed a lawsuit against the government seeking to force it to weaken the country’s strong and effective tobacco control laws. The groups, including the American Cancer Society, Framework Convention Alliance, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Corporate Accountability International, InterAmerican Heart Foundation and International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease emphasized the importance of Uruguay’s tobacco control laws to the health and well being of the country’s citizens. The groups also offered to provide technical and legal assistance to the Government of Uruguay.

Uruguay’s tobacco control laws are some of the strongest in the world, including graphic health warnings that cover 80 percent of cigarette packages, and a policy of one package per brand, which was adopted to deter the tobacco industry’s use of packages with colours and other symbols to substitute misleading descriptors such as “light” and “low tar” cigarettes.

On February 27, 2010, PMI announced that they had filed for arbitration at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. PMI claims that the use of a single presentation of a brand, as well as graphic health warnings that cover 80 percent of tobacco packages, poses a risk to its investments. This lawsuit is a legal maneuver designed to force the Government of Uruguay to weaken its tobacco control laws, and therefore no longer effectively protect its citizens from the deadly consequences of tobacco use.

In a letter of support earlier this month, international groups stated that Philip Morris’ lawsuit is spurious and without merit and that Uruguay has a strong case in any international court based on the fact “that all tobacco control measures Uruguay implemented are based in scientific evidence and covered by the first modern-day International Public Health Treaty, the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)”.  In addition, the groups offered technical and legal support to Uruguay in its case against PMI.

If PMI succeeds in pressuring Uruguay, a country recognised worldwide as a leader in tobacco control, to weaken its public health tobacco control laws, it will have repercussions throughout the world and send a signal that countries can be intimidated by the threat of lawsuits by multinational companies like PMI. It will also undermine the impact of the FCTC, which requires countries that have ratified the treaty to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use. Governments worldwide should not feel that they could be victims of PMI’s legal threats as a result of implementing effective measures that will reduce tobacco’s terrible toll on health, lives and money in their countries.

Uruguay is one of 22 countries that have passed or implemented graphic health warnings that cover at least 50% of cigarette packs, and one of only 10 countries whose health warnings cover more than 50% of packs. The Australian government recently approved the implementation of plain packaging, or standardized packaging that does not allow for colors or identifying marks such as pictures or logos. Additionally, the Honduras parliament recently followed Uruguay’s example and implemented 80 percent graphic warning labels on tobacco packs.

Large, picture-based health warning labels on tobacco packages are an essential component of a national strategy to reduce tobacco use. Research shows that effective warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with smoking and can influence future decisions about smoking. Large and graphic warning labels can motivate smokers to quit, discourage nonsmokers from starting, and keep ex-smokers from starting again. For example, Brazil’s hard-hitting graphic warnings, as well as other tobacco control measures, have reduced the national smoking prevalence from 34 to 17 percent.

It is clear that Philip Morris International consciously chose to file suit against Uruguay to send a message to other countries seeking to protect their citizens from the health effects of tobacco. In November 2010, Uruguay will host the fourth Conference of the Parties (COP), in which nations that have ratified the FCTC meet to come to consensus on the treaty’s guidelines. In a letter to President Mujica, international groups said that “the COP presents an opportunity for the Government of Uruguay to make a formal request for the 169 Parties to create a mechanism and develop a strategy that not only protects Uruguay but the rest of the countries from similar maneuvers.” They offered the Uruguayan Government their help to make this request and to find support from among the other countries that are Parties to the FCTC for this initiative.

Immediate steps should be taken to stop the tobacco industry from undermining strong tobacco control laws and policies. The World Health Organization states that tobacco use already kills 5.4 million people a year and the epidemic is worsening, especially in the developing world where more than 80 percent of tobacco-caused deaths will occur in the coming decades. Unless urgent action is taken, one billion people will die worldwide from tobacco use this century.

CONTACT:    Eduardo Bianco - +598-94-41-65-59

WHO releases health warning website

Australian government warning taken from the WHO pictorial health warning website.The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a health warnings website to help countries and Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) share pictorial health warnings and messages.

The WHO FCTC requires Parties to implement large, rotating health warnings on all tobacco products’ packaging and labelling. Such warnings are seen as a cost-effective way to increase public awareness about the dangers of tobacco use.

This website, was developed following a decision by the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC at its third session, and will be updated regularly as countries and Parties provide more images.

Visit the WHO’s health warning website

INB4 - Negotiations on Illicit Trade Protocol on Tobacco Products Making Progress, but Not there Yet

Sunday, 21st March 2010, Geneva, Switzerland:

International talks in Geneva on a new treaty to fight the global problem of illicit trade in tobacco products have ended without a final agreement. But Parties did make some significant progress.

Latest research: Stakes get higher in tobacco smuggling

Sunday, June 28 2009, Geneva, Switzerland: The illicit trade in cigarettes costs governments $40.5 billion in lost revenue every year, with losses falling disproportionately on low and middle income countries, and the benefits of international action are likely to far outweigh the costs, latest research has shown.

Norway divests $2 billion from tobacco companies

Today, the Norwegian Government announced that it will divest its funds from all companies which take more than five percent of their profits from tobacco production.

The Norwegian government pension fund, Global, which according to is considered to be the world’s second largest pension fund, has till recently held huge interests in the tobacco industry.

Advertencias sanitarias y la eliminación de la publicidad

Dr Winston Abascal (middle) with other public health representatives from Uruguay are delighted their country will host the next international conference of the WHO FCTC.Durban, Sudáfrica – Los países que participaron en la Conferencia de las Partes al Convenio Marco dieron pasos cruciales esta semana en la lucha contra la epidemia del tabaco y en reducir el número de muertes causados por el tabaco a nivel mundial. Los países Partes decidieron adoptar fuertes directrices para una prohibición total de la publicidad, promoción y patrocinio de los productos de tabaco y se espera que también adopten fuertes directrices para el uso de grandes advertencias sanitarias con pictogramas.

Nations Take Strong Stand on Tobacco Ad Bans and Effective Warning Labels; Must Provide Funds

Dr Winston Abascal (middle) with other public health representatives from Uruguay are delighted their country will host the next international conference of the WHO FCTC.Durban, South Africa - Nations attending the World Health Organisation’s tobacco control treaty conference made critical strides this week in the fight against the tobacco epidemic and in reducing the number of tobacco related deaths worldwide. Attending Parties decided to adopt strong guidelines on a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and it is expected that Parties will also adopt strong guidelines on the use of large, pictorial and effective tobacco warnings.

COP-3 media briefing: Africa at the crossroads of tobacco control

If current trends continue, by 2030 tobacco use will cause eight million deaths a year – and 80% of these will occur in the developing world, the World Health Organization estimates.

Download in English [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 71 KB], Chinese [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 265.97 KB], Russian [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 738.05 KB], French [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 71.47 KB], Spanish [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 106.71 KB].

COP-3 media briefing: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. It was adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly in May 2003, By November 2008, it had 160 Parties – 159 out of the 193 WHO member states and the European Community.

Download in English [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 67.51 KB], Chinese [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 231.35 KB], Spanish [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 68.34 KB], Russian [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 778.48 KB], French [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 71.51 KB].


COP-3 media briefing: closing the loopholes in bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is particularly forthright when it comes to tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship: Article 13 obliges Parties to the Convention to impose a comprehensive ban on all forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Where Parties’ domestic constitutional principles prevent such a ban, Parties are obliged to impose restrictions to the greatest extent possible.

Download in English [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 71.68 KB], Spanish [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 106.57 KB], French [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 73.81 KB], Russian [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 746.23 KB], Chinese [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 261.41 KB].

COP-3 media briefing: packaging - amplifying warnings . . . blocking deception

Warnings on tobacco product packs have the power to increase awareness of the health effects of tobacco use and to reduce tobacco consumption.

The bigger the warnings, the better they work. And when pictures and words are used together, the warnings have greater impact.

Download media briefing in English [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 70.68 KB], French [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 73.24 KB], Spanish [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 72.66 KB], Russian [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 808.45 KB], Chinese [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 155.69 KB], Arabic [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 799.15 KB].

COP-3 media briefing: industry interference - guidelines must protect health policy from industry sabotage

Every tobacco-related death is potentially preventable. But governments can only begin to realize their potential to save lives if they develop and implement effective public health policy that embraces tobacco control wholeheartedly.

Download media briefing in English [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 68.67 KB], French [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 70.72 KB], Spanish [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 70.8 KB], Russian [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 732.54 KB], Arabic [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 800.64 KB], Chinese [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 133.81 KB]. 

Africa tobacco control activists gather forces for sustained battle

Durban ( SOUTH AFRICA)-- Tobacco control activists from 21 African countries are meeting in Durban to gear-up for sustained and coordinated action to halt the alarming increase in tobacco use across the continent.

Their two-day workshop takes place on the eve of the third conference of government delegates from 160 countries that have ratified the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). This major event kicks off in Durban, at the International Convention Centre, on Monday (17 November).

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