Almost 200 countries signed the World Health Organisation’s Tobacco Control Convention and are obliged to take measures to curb tobacco use.
But the industry has hit back. A big tobacco company, Philip Morris, has taken Uruguay and Australia to tribunals under bilateral investment treaties, claiming billions of dollars in compensation for the two countries’ measures to have big warning signs and small or no brand logos on cigarette packets.
Under trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), companies can similarly sue governments, claiming loss of profits resulting from policy measures. At the World Trade Organisation, cases are also being taken against countries for their tobacco control measures.
Now for the good news. Many governments are fighting back against the Big Tobacco onslaught, with Malaysia taking a lead role on two important fronts: the Tobacco Control Convention and the TPPA.