Washington, D.C., 22 July 2016 (PAHO/WHO)-The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), through written pleading presented in March of last year, supported the government of Uruguay in an international arbitration case filed by the Philip Morris tobacco company as a result of the country's implementation of tobacco control regulations. 

Uruguay's tobacco control policies were upheld on July 8th by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank, which determined that the policies do not violate the terms of an investment treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland, where the claimant has its headquarters. Just as importantly, this decision recognized Uruguay's sovereign authority and obligation to protect the health of its population, through measures aligned with the guidelines established by the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), of which Uruguay is a State Party.

In reaching its decision, ICSID considered the arguments put forth by PAHO in its amicus curiae brief. The brief was accepted in view of the Organization's public health mission, its more than 110 years of experience defending health in the Region, and its understanding of the challenges facing the Americas, particularly regarding the tobacco epidemic.

In its amicus curiae brief, PAHO expressly supported the tobacco control measures instituted by Uruguay, saying that they are "a reasonable and responsible response to the deceptive advertising, marketing and promotion strategies employed by the tobacco industry ...  and they have proven effective in reducing tobacco consumption." The measures specifically require that health warnings occupy 80% of the principal surfaces of tobacco packaging and that only one type of cigarette per brand be sold in the country. 

PAHO told the tribunal of its deep concern regarding the tobacco industry's deceptive advertising campaigns and the industry's tactic of using legal action to undermine tobacco control measures. "Because of Uruguay's compliance with its Constitutional obligation to protect the health of its citizens, its obligations as a PAHO Member State, and its treaty obligations as a Party to the WHO FCTC, it is now the subject of this litigation," read the amicus curiae brief. 

Now that the controversy has been resolved, PAHO is making its amicus curiae brief public. 

The ICSID tribunal dismissed the tobacco company's claims: 

  • Finding that Uruguay had not violated the tobacco company's rights established in the bilateral investment treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland, where Philip Morris has its headquarters; 
  • Finding that the actions of Uruguay were consistent with its constitutional authority to protect the health of its citizens, and with its obligations under the FCTC; 
  • Ordering Philip Morris to reimburse Uruguay for legal fees and other costs stemming from the case, among other points. 

In addition to PAHO, the World Health Organization and the Secretariat of the FCTC submitted a joint amicus curiae brief in support of Uruguay's position.


Amicus Curiae brief submitted by PAHO
Request to submit amicus curiae brief
Amicus curiae brief of WHO and of the Secretariat of the FCTC
Request by WHO and its Secretariat to submit a brief
PAHO/WHO congratulates Uruguay on successfully defending its tobacco control policy from a tobacco company's claim
Decision by the ICSID Tribunal