November 3, 2015

The Supreme Court of Argentina protected the right to health over the tobacco industry’s interests

The high court rejected a lawsuit filed by Nobleza Piccardo (British American Tobacco in Argentina): the demand claimed the unconstitutionality of a law passed by Santa Fe that establishes complete bans on tobacco advertising and promotion in that province.
(Buenos Aires, October 29th, 2015). On October 27, the National Supreme Court rejected a plea of unconstitutionality presented by Nobleza Piccardo (British American Tobacco in Argentina) against the government of Santa Fe, arguing that the province has the constitutional power to implement measures to protect the right to health, enshrined both in the National and Provincial Constitutions. The lawsuit, filed in 2006, sought to challenge Article 7 and 8 of Santa Fe’s Provincial Tobacco Control Law, which establishes a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS).

The Supreme Court considered that Santa Fe’s regulation -a pioneer law in the country- meets the most comprehensive international standards in protecting the right to health and is indeed respectful of the National Constitution. Furthermore, the Court also considered that both National and Provincial governments are empowered to legislate on public health matters.

Complete and comprehensive bans on tobacco products advertising, promotion and sponsorship are among the most effective measures to reduce tobacco consumption. The main impact of these policies is directly related to the prevention of cigarette consumption among children and adolescents –the main target of advertising strategies deployed by the tobacco industry at points of sale.

“We welcome that the Supreme Court recognizes tobacco control policies as effective measures to protect the human right to health. The Court has also countered the argument that tobacco control policies violate tobacco companies’ freedom of commercial expression, recognizing that restrictions on tobacco advertising do not violate any constitutional rights. On the contrary, they seek to meet the constitutional obligation to guarantee the fundamental rights to health and life”, stands Verónica Schoj, Executive Director of the Fundación InterAmericana del Corazón Argentina (FIC Argentina). She also adds that “This is an historic decision and a major boost for the provinces to move towards complete bans on tobacco advertising and promotion, like in Santa Fe, since it rules out potential unconstitutionality lawsuits for the future. On the other hand, and in line with the fulfillment of constitutional human rights obligations, the need to amend the National Tobacco Control Law so it incorporates a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including the exhibition of tobacco products, becomes evident”.

The President of the Supreme Court of Argentina, Dr. Ricardo Lorenzetti, said that the only reason to question the constitutionality of a local regulation is that it poses an obstacle to the objectives of the “national protection law”.

“It is important to point out that the provinces that have no legislation on tobacco advertising and the ones where the legislation in force is weaker than the national standards should give priority to the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Law. This situation remains ignored by the tobacco industry”, stands Dr. Belén Rios, FIC Argentina’s Legal Area Director.

For more information on complete tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans, click here.

         
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