The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, vowed that her organization “is deeply committed to combating the tobacco epidemic,” which has made “a massive contribution to morbidity and mortality” throughout the world.
Chan lauded the efforts of the countries of the Americas in introducing strong tobacco control measures, noting that these efforts “are feeling the heat from an industry with dirty laundry and increasingly dirty tactics, now including aggressive litigation.”
The Director-General further noted that “Bearing the financial burden of commercial and investment arbitrations is difficult for any country, but most especially so for a small country like Uruguay.”
“Big Tobacco can afford to hire the best lawyers and PR firms,” Chan continued. “Big Money can speak louder than any moral, ethical, or public health argument, and can trample even the most damning scientific evidence.”
Chan concluded with a “strong plea” to the Region’s nations: “don’t cave in.” She warned that “if one country gives in to these scare tactics, others will fall like dominos.”
The Director-General reiterated WHO’s support by pledging to “stand behind every country making this effort, noting that “I know that countries in the Americas will do the same, in this Region’s famous spirit of solidarity and mutual support for better health.”
Dr. Chan addressed her remarks to ministers of health during the opening session of PAHO’s 51st Directing Council meeting, being held in Washington, D.C., during the week of 26–30 September.