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philip morris row Swiss diplomats placed request for tobacco firm in Moldova

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Swiss officials lodged a request with Moldovan authorities on behalf of Philip Morris to request the cigarette manufacturer be giving a voice in discussions around new tobacco regulation, Swiss media has reported.

According to the Le Temps newspaper, diplomats from the Swiss embassy in Kiev – which also covers interests in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital – lodged the request in July as politicians in the eastern European country were debating a harsh new tobacco law.

Philip Morris told the newspaper that they asked the Swiss embassy to push for “the possibility to contribute, like all other interested parties, to a public consultation about legislative proposals that would affect smokers and our business”.

The tobacco giant, based in Lausanne, is a big employer and tax-payer in Moldova, a country where some 50% of people are affected by smoking, Le Temps writes.

However, a new administration that took office in June has embarked on a range of progressive reforms, including efforts to raise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Economic interests

The foreign ministry in Bern told Le Temps that the request sent to Moldovan authorities solely concerned the consultation process and did not touch on the content of the new legislation, which it said was a matter for the parliament in Chisinau to decide.

It also defended its support for Philip Morris: “one of the tasks of Swiss embassies is to represent the interests of the Swiss economy in their host country,” it told the newspaper. “That’s why it happens quite often that embassies are contacted directly by companies.”

The story comes just a few weeks after a public debate around Philip Morris' role in sponsoring the Swiss pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Following negative headlines and criticism by health organisations, the partnership was dropped.

The tobacco group did manage to get a hearing regarding the new legislation in Moldova, on July 17, Le Temps writes. Politicians, however, turned a deaf ear, accepting the new law at the end of the month.

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