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Friday, March 20, 2015

The Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund

Recently a number of countries have made efforts to combat tobacco products by requiring alternate packaging. While it would seem that sovereign nations would have the power to choose how tobacco products are controlled, the reality is that Big Tobacco has extremely deep pockets giving them the ability to take on entire countries and manage to squash any new tobacco control policies.

In an attempt to assist low and middle-income countries fight Big Tobacco, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have started a global fund to help countries combat legal challenges to their smoking laws, The New York Times reports. The Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund will take-on the tobacco industry’s use of international trade agreements that hinder countries from passing strong tobacco control laws.

“In an ominous trend, in some countries the battle between tobacco and health has moved into the courts,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). “We will push back hard.”

So far, $4 million, a number expected to grow, has been pledged by the two powerhouse charity organizations, according to the article.

“The fact that there is a fund dedicated to taking on the tobacco companies in court sends a message that they are not going to get a free ride,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “If they say that’s not a lot of money — yes, well, take a look at who’s behind it. We just picked $4 million just to say, ‘O.K., here, let’s start it.’”

With smoking rates plummeting in more affluent countries, tobacco companies have been fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their third-world markets. Many countries simply do not have the economic power to combat the billion dollar tobacco industry. Countries that do pass stricter laws quickly find themselves in court over breaking international trade agreements.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will administer the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund.

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