More than 170 nations back Uruguay in Philip Morris dispute

09:32 | 19/11/2010
Uruguay on Thursday received support from more than 170 countries to put health measures before commercial interests as its government faces a lawsuit from tobacco giant Philip Morris.

The countries signed a World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco control accord expressing "concern for actions by the tobacco industry which seek to subvert and undermine government policies to control tobacco consumption."

They declared their "firm wish to prioritise the application of health measures destined to control tobacco consumption" at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) on tobacco control in the tiny South American nation.

Uruguay was the first Latin American nation to introduce a tobacco ban, in March 2006, and the fifth worldwide.

Philip Morris earlier this year filed a complaint with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank, seeking damages allegedly caused by the anti-tobacco measures in Uruguay.

The director of health of Uruguay's Health Ministry, Gilberto Rios, said that, although it did not specifically mention Uruguay, Thursday's declaration showed "a new element of support for the government policy against tobacco use ... and solidifies Uruguay's defense position in the dispute with Philip Morris."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and eight international organizations have backed Uruguay in its dispute with Philip Morris in recent days.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation of some 3.4 million inhabitants is around half the size of the annual turnover of Philip Morris.

AFP

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