Sorry!! The article you are trying to read is not available now.

Philip Morris Sues Uruguay Over Smoking Ban

Print comment Post Comments
A number of years ago, my sister spent the summer studying in Mali, West Africa.

While on a trip into the bush, she awoke early one morning to the sound of a sales pitch coming over what sounded like a public address system.

Unzipping her tent, she watched dumbfounded, as a Marlboro Adventure Team 4x4 rolled through the literal middle of nowhere as company representatives distributed free samples across territory that had not yet been annexed by the ruling party of Marlboro Country.

As smoking rates in the West have declined over time, tobacco companies set their sights on developing countries for growth.

Writes Rob Cunningham, a policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society and author of the book Smoke & Mirrors, "The industry’s pursuit of sales with a apparent lack of concern for the plight of humanity is well illustrated from this excerpt from the 1984 annual report of the BAT subsidiary in Kenya":

After a promising start, the drought and uncertainty over food supplies created a reluctance among customers, particularly in rural areas, to spend their limited cash resources on items such as cigarettes. Under these conditions volume sales did well to achieve a modest growth of 0.4% and turnover of 7.9% over 1983.

Good for BAT (which further demonstrated its level of regard for international mores by, in one particularly egregious example, saving on labor costs by secretly operating a cigarette factory in North Korea).

Bad for the people choosing tobacco over food.

According to Cunningham, a 1981 Bangladesh study "found that the cost of consuming five cigarettes a day by someone in a poor household could lead to a monthly dietary deficit of approximately 8,000 calories for that household."

This, while "the big tobacco firms have pushed the average price of cigarettes up in rich countries such as Britain – where 20 cigarettes now cost more than £6 a pack – while hammering down the price paid to tobacco growers in poorer countries such as India and Malawi," as Emily Dugan recently noted in The Independent.

No matter -- if anything, Big Tobacco has gotten even bolder in protecting its revenue stream at all costs.

Amazingly enough, Philip Morris is suing Uruguay -- as in, the country -- over a smoking ban that it believes, as UPI reports, is "damaging its business prospects."

The news service explains:

The extraordinary legal action, if successful, will see the state of Uruguay hauled before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank branch.

Anti-tobacco campaigners have hailed Uruguay's tough stand on tobacco. Analysts said Philip Morris chose a small Latin American for potentially precedent-setting litigation instead of taking on major countries in the West that all have legislated with varying degrees of enthusiasm to discourage tobacco use.

Philip Morris claims Uruguay is contractually obligated to protect foreign investment.

Uruguay claims it is well within its rights to defend health of its citizens.

Offering their support to the government of Uruguay are 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.

And me.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.