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Uruguay Leader Warns Obama of Smoking's Toll

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Uruguay's President Jose Mujica in the Oval Office of the White House, May 12, 2014.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Uruguay's President Jose Mujica in the Oval Office of the White House, May 12, 2014.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica warned U.S. President Barack Obama Monday of what he said is the mass murder of millions of people across the world from smoking.

In a White House meeting, the 78-year-old Mujica told Obama, a reformed smoker, of his country's efforts to preserve tough-anti-smoking laws. He said globally eight million smokers are dying annually.

"Mr. President, who is speaking is an old smokesman. But in the world per year, eight million people are dying from smoking. And that is more than - worth more than World War I or II. It is murder! We are in an arduous fight, very arduous. And we must fight against very strong interests. Governments must not be involved in private litigation, but here we are fighting for life," said Mujica.

In 2006, Uruguay became the first Latin American country to enact a ban on smoking in enclosed public places. The South American nation requires large health warnings on tobacco packages. But U.S. tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing Uruguay over the rules for $25 million at the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Obama, speaking at the White House before the Uruguayan president, praised the commercial links between the two countries and Mujica's personal integrity.

"President Mujica personally has extraordinary credibility when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights given his strong values and personal history," Obama said.
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