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November 22/29, 2016

Trade, Investment, and TobaccoPhilip Morris v Uruguay

Author Affiliations
  • 1O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
  • 2The Tobacco Epidemic Research Centre of Uruguay
JAMA. 2016;316(20):2085-2086. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.14503

Trade liberalization, the removal of restrictions on the exchange of goods between nations, has been politically contentious. Although the presidential candidates have discussed adverse effects on US workers, public health advocates express a different concern. The tobacco industry has commandeered international trade and investment treaties to undermine laws designed to protect societies from the devastating consequences of tobacco use. The barrage of litigation is a prime industry tactic to deter governments from robustly regulating smoking. On July 8, 2016, the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled in Uruguay’s favor in the first investor-state tobacco arbitration case ever decided on the merits.1 Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez said, “We have met the unwavering commitment to defend the health of our people. From now on, when tobacco companies try to undermine [tobacco control laws], they will find our precedent.”2

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