Big Tobacco giant Philip Morris has filed a lawsuit against the country of Uruguay because the country imposed a new law concerning the warning labels placed on cigarette packages, reported NPR.
The new law requires Philip Morris International to cover at least 80 percent of the packaging with medical warnings and graphic images of newborn birth defects and pictures of organs affected by smoking. However, Philip Morris believes this mode of raising public awareness violates treaty law and is suing Uruguay for $25 million.
Despite the graphic nature of these medical warnings, they’ve actually been pretty effective. A joint study conducted by Uruguay’s University of the Republic and a professor from MIT found that the graphic images decreased smoking rates by 4.3 percent annually from 2005 and 2011. Also, the study found that smoking among pregnant women has decreased, causing the birth rate to increase.
Big Tobacco has a history of pushing around small countries that haven’t a big enough GDP to get into large legal battles with the tobacco industry. Several countries, including Uruguay, had plans to pass stricter smoking laws in order to improve the overall health of the people.
Claiming that the international smoking laws violated international trade treaties, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International began threatening small, poor countries with legal action. And knowing full well that these countries couldn’t afford fighting them in court, the countries have no choice but to give in.
The threats were “deliberately designed to instill fear,” said the World Health Organization’s director general Dr. Margaret Cho. “The wolf is no longer in sheep’s clothing, and its teeth are bared.”
In 2012, Philip Morris netted $77 billion in revenue, compared to Uruguay’s GDP of $59 billion.
The tobacco industry is a fair comparison with the oil industry when thinking about the feindish, bloodsucking animals that run it. This is the same industry that tried to convince Congress and the American people that second-hand smoke was safe and harmless to children.