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Tobacco manufacturers are raising the prospect of costly, long legal battles against antismoking laws in developing nations, according to The New York Times. The industry is telling these countries their tobacco laws violate trade and investment treaties.

The industry is trying to maintain access to markets in these countries, as smoking rates in wealthier nations have fallen. Critics of the industry say the tactics are intimidating low- and middle-income countries, and are undermining the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This treaty, signed by more than 170 countries, aims to reduce smoking by encouraging limits on advertising, packaging and sale of tobacco products.

According to WHO, nearly 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

When the southern African country of Namibia passed a tobacco control law in 2010, it received warnings from the tobacco industry that the law violated the country’s obligations under trade treaties, the article notes. The country has yet to carry out any provisions of the law, such as placing large health warnings on cigarette packaging. Three other African countries—Gabon, Togo, and Uganda—have also received warnings from the tobacco industry that their laws violate international treaties, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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