Thursday, January 14

Big Losses for Big Tobacco

Six million people die annually as a result of tobacco. Many governments have adopted the WHO framework for tobacco control and have since taken measures (policy changes, cessation programs, etc.) to reduce mortalities and morbidities that occur due to tobacco. Not surprisingly, big tobacco companies like Philip Morris International have pushed back against countries that have enacted stringent packaging laws. 

In a much-awaited decision, Australia won an international legal battle to uphold its tobacco policies that include the plain packaging laws. Australia has enacted some of the toughest measures to reduce the harm caused by tobacco and plain packaging laws are among them. These laws are intended to prevent the tobacco companies from displaying their distinctive designs, colors or even their brand logos (companies can include their names and logos, but they cannot have flashy, enticing packaging). Instead, the companies would be required to use olive-green packs with health warnings and graphic color images that would cover nearly 75% of the front of the packs. The Plain Packaging Act passed by the Australian parliament became law in 2011 and, shortly thereafter, Hong Kong-based PMI sought legal action against Australia citing that, by stripping logos off the packs, these stringent laws violated the bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong, thereby severely diminishing their brand value.

This is not the first time Philip Morris has dragged governments into legal battles over stricter anti-smoking and tobacco laws.

While global rate of lung cancer mortality was increasing between 1990 and 2013, owing to stricter anti-tobacco measures, Uruguay saw a 15% reduction in lung cancer mortality. PMI, a company whose revenues were nearly $80 billion in 2013, sued Uruguay, a small country of 3 million with a GDP of about $56 billion, in 2013. The lawsuit was brought to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 2010 and the company is seeking $25 million in damages from Uruguay, once again, citing violation of bilateral investment treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland. The ICSID is expected to settle this case by arbitration.

The upholding of the anti-tobacco laws in Australia will hopefully set a precedent and allow countries to move forward with legitimate public health actions to curb the global tobacco epidemic without interference from tobacco companies.

You will find my post and other international health related posts/news round-ups over at the IH blog.

If you want to get this information with some humor sprinkled in- watch John Oliver tear down the tobacco industry

Friday, January 1

So the verdict on my reading challenges this year...

Not so good, I am afraid. I wanted to read 40 books this year but managed to read only 20, and the 20th was a mad dash to finish last night. Below is the break down from the challenges over at Bev's.

Color Coded Reading Challenge

2015 Color Coded Headquarters

1. A book with "Blue" or any shade of Blue (Turquoise, Aquamarine, Navy, etc) in the title/on the cover 

2. A book with "Red" or any shade of Red (Scarlet, Crimson, Burgandy, etc) in the title/on the cover. RED POPPIES BY ALAI

3. A book with "Yellow" or any shade of Yellow (Gold, Lemon, Maize, etc.) in the title/on the cover. YELLOW BIRDS by KEVIN POWERS

4. A book with "Green" or any shade of Green (Emerald, Lime, Jade, etc) in the title/on the cover. Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman

5. A book with "Brown" or any shade of Brown (Tan, Chocolate, Beige, etc) in the title/on the cover.

6. A book with "Black" or any shade of Black (Jet, Ebony, Charcoal, etc) in the title/on the cover. 
Spectre Black by J. Carson Black

7. A book with "White" or any shade of White (Ivory, Eggshell, Cream, etc) in the title/on the cover. Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong (this was the book I finished last night!)

8. A book with any other color in the title/on the cover (Purple, Orange, Silver, Pink, Magneta, etc.). PURPLE CLOUD BY M.P.SHIEL (this is cool sci-fi/fantasy from 1901)

9. A book with a word that implies color (Rainbow, Polka-dot, Plaid, Paisley, Stripe, etc.). 
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

I did not complete my bingo challenges this year but I did get to read some pretty awesome mysteries by some of the best authors (I especially love mysteries from the golden era)

The body in the library (Agatha Christie)
And then there were none (Agatha Christie)
The circular staircase (Mary Reinhart Roberts, first published 1908)
The Nursing Home murder (Ngaio Marsh, 1935) 
Death at a bar (Ngaio Marsh, 1940)
The moving toyshop (Edmund Crispin, 1946)

Silver: 1960-1989
There hangs a knife (Marcia Muller, 1988)
Killing of Katie Steelstock, Michael Gilbert (1980)