Overcoming tobacco industry opposition to standardized packaging in the Americas

Crosbie et al.

Countries in the Region of the Americas have been slow to adopt standardized packaging of tobacco products. The objectives of this analysis are to report on the progress made in adopting such packaging in countries in the Region, review known tobacco industry strategies for opposing these policies and discuss the resources available to academics, advocates and policy-makers who might be interested in advancing the use of standardized packaging in the Region. Of the 23 countries worldwide that have fully adopted standardized packaging laws, only 2 are in the Region (Canada and Uruguay). Six other countries (Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama) have tried to introduce standardized packaging through draft bills, all of which have been delayed or withdrawn. There are indications that the tobacco industry has used its playbook of arguments to oppose the policy in those countries, including allegations that standardized packaging breaches national laws and international treaties protecting intellectual property, alongside threats of litigation. It is possible that these threats and allegations may have had a greater effect in the Region because of the lengthy (6 years) and costly (legal fees of US$ 10 million) international investment arbitration brought by Philip Morris International against Uruguay’s strong tobacco packaging laws. However, all of the industry’s arguments have been debunked, and national courts and international legal forums have upheld standardized packaging as a lawful policy. Governments in the Region of the Americas should follow the examples of Canada and Uruguay and reject the industry’s false arguments and litigation threats. This analysis discusses some of the financial and technical resources that can assist them.

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Opinion and analysis