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John Oliver: Tobacco companies suing countries to push smoking

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Written by Diane Archer

John Oliver explains how tobacco companies are making more money than ever, even though Americans are smoking a lot less.

What are the tobacco companies doing? They are promoting smoking in developing countries. According to Oliver, in Indonesia, two-thirds of adult males smoke as do some two-year old babies. Kiosks sponsored by tobacco companies are allowed to sell single cigarettes directly outside of schools.

In countries with laws that aim to protect public health and limit tobacco use, Phillip Morris International and other big tobacco companies sue. Australia, for example, has a plain packaging law that allows images of unhealthy lungs on packaging, driving down tobacco use to a record low. After losing its lawsuit against Australia, Phillip Morris Asia threatened to sue the country through an international court under an international trade agreement, claiming that Australia was bringing down the value of its intellectual property.

Tobacco companies also enlist other countries in their efforts to promote smoking. For example, Ukraine charged Australia with hurting its tobacco exports, even though Australia has no trade agreement with the Ukraine.

And tobacco companies have been known to sue poor countries that try to limit cigarette smoking. Phillip Morris sued Uruguay because it has large health warnings on cigarette packages. The World Health Organization is helping Uruguay with that lawsuit, which is costing the country a huge sum of money. But Togo, one of the ten poorest countries in the world, was forced to undo restrictions it had imposed on the sale of tobacco to protect its citizenry.

If you smoke, click here for a brief explanation of the health risks of smoking and why you should quit!

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