Uruguay Defeated Big Tobacco

Large tobacco companies that operation multinationally and earn billions of dollars a year off of an unhealthy addictive drug often fight poor nations. They fight poor nations in the courts and the markets when those poor nations try to increase the well being of their citizens by managing tobacco sales. Recently Uruguay won a legal battle agains Phillip Morris (part of Altria) through the International Centre for Investment Disputes – it’s a massive victory too!

First, the Uruguay case will embolden other governments who have the political will to fight the tobacco epidemic but have been understandably circumspect about the possibility of multi-million dollar litigation. But the fact that Uruguay won is not the only positive lesson from the case. PMI and other tobacco multinationals have nearly limitless resources – they can launch cases even when they are sure they will lose.

Second, Uruguay did not stand alone. Philanthropists (especially former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg), civil society and academics lined up to support the government, committing both funding and in-kind help. PMI’s vast resources and the power that unfortunately often seems to flow from immorality were trumped by solidarity and a confidence of being on the right side of history. David had only his sling and stone. Uruguay had a volunteer army. Mayor Bloomberg, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have already set up an emergency fund to support other countries who fall into Big Tobacco’s cross-hairs. Those governments can count on the same army of volunteers.

Read more.
Thanks to Delaney!

Australia Gets World’s Toughest Law on Cigarette Branding

It is common knowledge that smoking kills people and, in democracies, providing health care for citizens is important and unquestioned. In Australia, they clearly care about each other as they now make it harder than ever for cigarette companies to shill their destructive product.

Starting in December, packs will instead come in a uniformly drab shade of olive and feature dire health warnings and graphic photographs of smoking’s health effects. The government, which has urged other countries to adopt similar rules, hopes the new packs will make smoking as unglamorous as possible.

Many countries mandate that packages display photos or text describing smoking’s health effects, and some limit the size of the branding or ban certain slogans, but Australia’s dual approach would be the strictest globally.

Read more here.

P.E.I Rental Units Go Smoke Free

The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island has encouraged landlords to make their rental units smoke free in order to encourage safer homes. They mention health concerns as a motivating factor for this, I wonder if the threat of accidental fires was also an issue. Either way, good for P.E.I for making safer smoke-free homes.

Under P.E.I. law, property owners can evict a tenant if they violate a no-smoking policy that’s included in the lease. Cora MacDonald, superintendent of the smoke-free Parklane Place Apartments in Charlottetown, told CBC News Tuesday the policy saves money on repairs from smoke damage, and helps fill the building.

“We figured it would be a drawing card for some tenants, because a lot of our tenants are seniors and some have health issues,” said MacDonald.

“We are fully rented now, and I think we’re ahead of what we expected as far as being totally rented.”

The Council for a Smoke-free P.E.I. is hosting a public workshop for landlords on smoke-free buildings at the end of October. Council member Frank Morrison said many landlords don’t know about the policy, but more are taking advantage of it.

“I think it has definitely risen in the last few years,” said Morrison.

“Certainly if you go back five years, I wouldn’t have known of any that were smoke free at that time.” He said roughly 10 per cent of rental properties in P.E.I. now have no-smoking policies.

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Smoking Bans Decrease Hospitalization

Toronto phased in a ban on smoking starting in 1999 and ending in 2004 and the results are in: banning smoking was (and still is) a good thing.

“It confirms that public policy can make a difference,” said Dr. Alisa Naiman, lead author of the study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences study was the first to look at the effect of anti-smoking legislation on a wide range of smoking-related conditions. It examined three cardiovascular ailments — heart attacks, strokes and angina — and three respiratory ones — asthma, pneumonia and chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Previous studies have focused solely on heart attacks.

Naiman said researchers were surprised by the findings’ consistency — the fact that hospital visits plummeted in much the same way for both cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.

Hospitalization for cardiovascular conditions dropped 39 per cent, including a 17.4 per cent decrease in heart attacks, while hospital visits for respiratory conditions fell by 33 per cent.

Read more at The Star.

Bhutan: A Nonsmoking Nation

Bhutan has become the first nation to ban smoking within its borders. I found this out via the linked Slate article and they point out that it’s a tricky issue banning something as “personal” as smoking. It seems Bhutan is the best suited nation to quit smoking because of its cultural roots.

Since Dec. 17, it has been illegal to smoke in public or sell tobacco. Violators are fined the equivalent of $232—more than two months’ salary in Bhutan. Authorities heralded the ban by igniting a bonfire of cigarette cartons in the capital, Thimphu, and stringing banners across the main thoroughfare, exhorting people to kick the habit. As if they have a choice.

So, having sat out the traditional development rush, Bhutan hopes to steer its own course, avoiding the mistakes of the industrialized world. Because of its homogenous and small population (anywhere from 800,000 to 2 million people, depending on which estimates you believe), Bhutan just might succeed in barring the demon weed. The nation’s unusual culture makes a sudden and complete tobacco ban possible. The country is ruled by a benevolent king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who is widely revered and universally obeyed. “Bhutanese are pretty happy to sacrifice for their fellow citizen,” says Linda Leaming, an American who has lived in Bhutan for the past eight years. “The individual is subjugated to the good of society.”
It also helps that Bhutan has few smokers compared other nations. Only about 1 percent of the population lights up, according to the health ministry. (Foreign observers believe the actual figure is 3 percent or 4 percent.) Tobacco isn’t grown in Bhutan. It is a very small, poor market, and it costs a tremendous amount to import goods. All these are factors that have reduced interest in cigarettes.

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