13 December 2010

Big Tobacco: Saving Lives is "Expropriation"

Although I knew that there is yet another trade treaty being discussed between New Zealand, the US and others, I hadn't heard about this aspect before:

The Green Party is calling on the Government to reject attempts to introduce investor-state disputes mechanisms into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations in light of evidence that the Philip Morris tobacco company is planning to use the TPP to block anti-smoking laws.

The issue is this, apparently:

Philip Morris is currently taking action against Uruguay’s proposed anti-smoking laws under the investor-state disputes mechanism of the trade agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland. Uruguay is proposing to introduce new measures requiring 80 percent of cigarette packaging to carry graphic warnings against smoking. The company argues such measures effectively expropriate their investments. Under the investor-state disputes mechanism a World Bank panel will decide if Uruguay must pay Philip Morris for this ‘expropriation’.

So let me get this straight. Philip Morris - and all the other tobacco companies - make hefty profits by selling highly addictive substances to people that the company knows will probably give them cancer and/or a host of other life-threatening and painful diseases. Their deaths will cause huge losses not just personally, but economically - to their families, and to the state.

And yet, thanks to this wonderful "investor-state disputes mechanism", an unelected World Bank panel made up of people whose interests are probably aligned with big business rather than individuals in developing countries, "will decide if Uruguay must pay Philip Morris for this ‘expropriation’."

"Expropriation": that's what they want to rebrand the fight against these profits that result directly from the suffering of millions of people. Stopping these global, massively-powerful drug dealers is not common sense, or a wise health policy, but is now branded "expropriation". If you ever wanted a symbol of how sick and twisted capitalism and the structures that support it really are can be, you could do worse than choose this new "expropriation" of profits born of death.

Let's hope New Zealand tells the TPP negotiators pushing for this "investor-state disputes mechanism" that they can stick it in their carcinogenic pipes and smoke it. (Via @juhasaarinen.)

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Dana Blankenhorn said...

People aren't accepting dollar or $2 coins. The Sacajawejas move no more than the Susan Bs did.

The solution is simple. Put Reagan on the $1 coin. Conservatives will demand coins with Reagan on them, while they reject them with women.

Or put Reagan on the $2 and Nixon on the $1. Everyone will want to "dump a Nixon" if it's a $1 coin, right?

Anonymous said...

My grandpa died a long, terrible death over the course of my childhood, smoking to his dying day. I don't remember him ever being without constant oxygen due to the emphysema in his only lung. I can remember watching smother as he switched oxygen tanks when we would go out. Even before I was born, there were times when the doctors didn't think he would make it, but pure stubbornness carried him through until I was 16.

I'm sorry, Big Tobacco, but I just don't see why any government should have to reimburse you for lost sales.

Valdis said...

Hopefully world's capitalism will change to something more human. Non-profits become more influential than any time before.
An there is increasing (notably not enough) number of people who counts their total "legacy" more than simple profit.

And it is not only in free/open source movement, but also in other sectors e.g. http://on.ted.com/8l1w

Glyn Moody said...

@id: yes, personal experience like yours make the harm so concrete.

Glyn Moody said...

@Valdi: no, you're right, things are improving across many areas.

Sassinak said...

They should be forced to smoke their own damn shit, them and their whole damn family. It took me five years to succeed quitting smoking. 10 years free next year.