In some developing countries, efforts to discourage smokers is running up against new opposition from tobacco companies. They threaten to sue and they're waving international trade treaties. (Reuters/Sigit Pamungkas)
The frigid temperatures of the last few days have likely had many of Canada's smokers taking another hard look at their habit. They may join the many other former smokers who've decided to butt out altogether. That's been the trend among developed nations.
But in many countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America smoking rates still soar ... and so do the public health problems that go with them. But as governments attempt to pass anti-smoking measures, they're running into a roadblock.
Increasingly, multinational tobacco companies are intervening. They argue that gruesome warnings on cigarette packages and other new anti-smoking measures violate international trade treaties.
Uruguay is widely regarded as a tobacco-control success story; but now that's under threat since the tobacco giant Philip Morris International announced plans to sue.
A World Bank arbitration tribunal has agreed to hear Philip Morris International's case, and decide whether Uruguay is in violation of an investment treaty with the tobacco company's home country of Switzerland.
We requested an interview or statement from Philip Morris International, but received no reply. There is a statement about Uruguay on the company website.
Uruguay Bilateral Investment Treaty Litigation - Philip Morris International
The ongoing Uruguay case may be the most prominent example of this type of legal strategy, but it's far from the only one. British American Tobacco sent this letter to the Ministry of Health and Social Services in Namibia.
In Gabon, Togo and Uganda, tobacco companies argue anti-smoking laws violate the trade treaties those countries agreed to sign. Protracted, and expensive, trade tribunal hearings could be in store if the countries implement their anti-smoking policies.
Have thoughts on this segment?
This segment was produced by The Current's Peter Mitton and Sarah Grant.