“I will only say its initials to avoid damaging any sensitivity: Philip Morris”, President Tabaré Vázquez stressed out, when in his speech at the UN General Assembly he referred to the international lawsuit filed against Uruguay for implementing policies that promote the health of its population. He added that our country “is enduring this situation” because this corporation “does not want other countries to follow our path against tobacco.”
Beyond his experience as a physician, Vázquez claimed that as President he understands that “public health is an essential component of the sovereignty of nations, the right of individuals, a development factor of societies and an unavoidable responsibility of the Nations.”
“Such task should have no kind of borders since the issues that cause it have no borders either, they do not even recognize them,” he said.
He explained that for Uruguay it is “essential to address tobacco and alcohol by integrating it into drug policies. “It is not simple, but it is possible to regulate these markets without the prohibitionist dogmatism, respecting people’s rights and being consistent with public health as a factor of State sovereignty and progress of society.”
“Especially the war against tobacco and against its vector which in this case are not mosquitoes, or birds, or rats, but the multinational tobacco industry”, he argued. “It is the only one who kills its customers”, he emphasized.
Uruguay is a world leader in the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it has a law on the Control and Regulation of Cannabis and implements control on alcohol consumption, explained the President.
“In terms of international cooperation we do not start from scratch”, he said, but he stressed that without “political will” no progress can be made regardless of the abundant availability of human, material and financial resources.
“Political will rather than an ideological dilemma is an ethical matter”, he sustained.
“It is unethical that in some circumstances multinational organizations’ courts can prioritize business aspects over the defense of a fundamental human right such as health and life”, he added.
“And this is endured by Uruguay”, he said, as he denounced a multinational tobacco corporation who filed a lawsuit against Uruguay for implementing the tobacco control framework of the World Health Organization.” And with irony he mentioned the company name: “I will only say its initials to avoid damaging any sensitivity: Philip Morris”.
From his point of view, “Uruguay is enduring this situation not only as punishment” but because that corporation is trying to deter “other countries from following the same path we have taken against tobacco and to promote a better quality of life for the population.”
He confirmed that according to calculations, cancer annually costs Latin America 4,500 million US dollars. “It may seem unpleasant to mention this aspect, but it is part of a reality that must be transformed”, he pointed out.
It is estimated that by 2030, one million Latin Americans will die of cancer annually and over 7,000,000 globally.
At this point he reminded that it “is a preventable disease and that if it is diagnosed early and treated properly, it can be cured.” But if it continues as it is, “it will kill more people than World War II (1939-1945)”, he warned.
“We are facing a brutal pandemic, the likes of which humanity has never seen before”, he said, after emphasizing that “life is valuable, it is priceless.”
Access the speech of President Tabaré Vazquez at the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on 29 September 2015.