News & Events

Victory for Public Health: International Ruling Against Philip Morris

Contact: O’Neill Institute: Karen Teber / km463@georgetown.edu

WASHINGTON (July 8, 2016) -Today, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) issued a binding ruling in favor of Uruguay in the case of Philip Morris v. Uruguay, a case filed in 2010. (The ICSID settles international investment disputes and is binding under a treaty established in 1965).Philip Morris brought its case against Uruguay claiming that the country’s tobacco control policies interfered with its investments. Specifically, the company claimed it had “already sustained, and will continue to sustain, substantial losses.”

Public health law expert Oscar A. Cabrera, executive director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Lawand an expert in international and domestic laws related to tobacco control, says today’s ruling is historic, and significant victory for tobacco control worldwide.

“This decision is the right one to protect people from the death and harms caused by tobacco products,” says Cabrera, who has worked on tobacco control in Latin America, and has supported tobacco control initiatives in Uruguay.

“We hope the ruling will encourage countries to consider implementing more effective tobacco control policies without the fear of international investment litigation from big tobacco,” he says. “Philip Morris used this arbitration not only to try to pressure Uruguay to reform its tobacco control regulations, but also to intimidate other countries that wanted to pursue similar measures.”

Cabrera adds, “Uruguay is a world leader in tobacco control, and has implemented effective tobacco control measures in compliance with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. As a result, demand for tobacco products have dropped and health outcomes are already improving. Overtime, this will mean fewer people dying from tobacco-related deaths and from suffering from the many diseases associated with smoking.”

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law is a leader in the effort to reduce global tobacco use with a focus on three strategies: litigation, human rights monitoring related to tobacco and by supporting advocates in low to middle income countries as they develop human rights-based and constitutionally-based arguments to promote tobacco control.

“Currently we are exploring how Latin American countries, and other nations, can use various international treaties or agreements, or their own constitutions, as tools for supporting more effective and aggressive action to reduce the terrible harms and costs caused by smoking and other tobacco use,” Cabrera says.

To arrange an interview with Cabrera, please contact Karen Teber at km463@georgetown.edu.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.

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