Uruguay wins big against Philip Morris and works closely with The Union towards plain packaging

Uruguay has won the six-year legal battle launched by Philip Morris International (PMI) in 2010 before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The ruling has international repercussions for tobacco control, setting a precedent that favours public health over commercial interests.

PMI took Uruguay to court seeking compensation for health policies that it claimed devalued its brand and investments. Specifically, PMI argued that graphic health warnings covering 80 percent of the surface area of tobacco packaging, and limiting each brand to just one variant, contravened trademark and investment protections. The ICSID ruling rejected all their claims.

 "This is a victory for the sovereign right of nations to protect the health of their populations, above and beyond the economic interests of the tobacco industry. The decision of the ICSID is ground-breaking for the global advancement of tobacco control. It has proven that small countries, with comparatively limited resources, can take on the might of multinational tobacco corporations and win," said Dr Ehsan Latif, Director of the Department of Tobacco Control at The Union.

The Union has worked with Uruguay since 2014, offering technical assistance and building capacity to improve tobacco control policy, evaluate impact, and improve enforcement, in the context of a Bloomberg Initiative (BI) grant. A 5-year strategic tobacco control plan to guide government actions during President Vázquez's current tenure was developed as an outcome of this collaboration. The Union will continue to support the government of Uruguay, as it focuses on plain packaging and countering industry interference over the next months.

The full ICSID ruling is available on the website of the Government of Uruguay, in English and Spanish.