Brazil’s Supreme Court upholds landmark ban on flavours and additives in tobacco products

In a landmark victory for tobacco control and public health, Brazil’s Supreme Court of Justice has rejected a constitutional challenge from the tobacco industry against a resolution from the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) that banned all flavoured additives in tobacco products. As of 1 February the ban now holds across Brazil. Together with new restrictions recently issued by ANVISA on point-of-sale display of tobacco products, it will provide additional protection against tobacco industry strategies to attract new smokers.

The tobacco industry filed a lawsuit against ANVISA, arguing that the agency lacked legal authority to regulate their products. A clear majority of Supreme Court members upheld ANVISA’s authority to enact regulatory measures. The Court also rejected the tobacco industry request to strike down ANVISA’s ban on additives, though it left the door open to future legal challenges with different arguments.

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America with a population of 210 million. It is the world’s second-largest tobacco producer and the first in tobacco exports. Despite the strength of the tobacco industry and the tobacco-growing sector, Brazil has been a regional leader for tobacco control for over two decades. The country more than halved the adult smoking rate from 35 percent in 1989 to 11 percent in 2014.

This has been the result of early adoption of effective tobacco control measures – graphic health warnings covering 100 percent of one main side of cigarette packages, banning the use of misleading terms like ‘light’ and ‘mild’ to describe tobacco products, and most of all, strong tobacco taxation, which accounts for half of the overall drop in smoking. Brazil also has a solid tobacco governance structure: it is the only country in the Americas to set up an intergovernmental body to implement the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

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