In 2011, Australia passed a landmark law called Plain Packaging. Essentially, tobacco companies no longer have control over packaging cigarettes in Australia. Instead the law bans tobacco company branding and instead replaces the package designs with disturbing images (like the one seen above) meant to be a health warning.
Tobacco use in the United States has long been on the decline. Currently just 18 percent of Americans are daily smokers according to the Center for Disease Control. Still, the tobacco industry spends $23 million a day on advertising. So Australia’s plain packaging law was a major blow to tobacco companies.
Philip Morris International – one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies, which owns the Marlboro brand, sued the country of Australia.
John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight poked fun at the case, and stated,
“PM lost the case horribly, in fact, five of the six judges said the lawsuit was “delusive…unreal and synthetic.”
But PM didn’t stop there. Keep in mind that although smoking rates in the United States are at an all time low, smoking is on the rise in the rest of the world.
Ukraine issued an international complaint against Australia, stating that Australia’s packaging laws are hurting Ukrainian exports.
As Oliver points out, there is absolutely no trade exchange between Ukraine and Australia within the tobacco industry. So guess who is footing the bill of these bogus lawsuits? The tobacco industry.
Philip Morris is also suing Uruguay, a country in South America because of government-imposed health warning requirements on the tobacco industry.
PM threatened many other countries too.
Togo is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, and is located in Africa. Packs of cigarettes sold in Togo legally must have written warnings about the health risks of smoking. But over 40 percent of Togo citizens are illiterate. So the government in Togo decided to try something similar to Australia’s plain packaging requirements – where the risks of smoking are displayed in pictures on the cigarette cartons.
Philip Morris threatened to sue the country of Togo, citing the aforementioned Australian lawsuit as proof that Togo would lose. Togo has an economy worth just $4.3 billion according to the CIA Factbook. In comparison, Philip Morris’ 2013 annual report states the tobacco company had a net income of $80 billion.
I’m going to call this bullying.
But instead of regular person-to-person bullying, this is international corporation versus developing nation, economic bullying.
Despite the fact that Philip Morris lost the lawsuit in Australia horribly, the tobacco company quoted the one judge who agreed with Philip Morris. Five of the six judges in the Australia v. Philip Morris lawsuit sided with Australia’s plain packaging laws. But that’s not what Philip Morris told the leaders of Togo.
When this issue came to my attention, my stomach churned. As a daily smoker, I know that my health is in danger, and I know I will have to quit smoking one day soon.
But I smoke Marlboro. And Marlboro is currently part of a major international coercion ring that spans five known continents.
So with this, I am calling for a boycott of all Philip Morris products.