MONTEVIDEO, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Uruguay's government will not back down on tough anti-smoking policy, President Tabare Vazquez said on Thursday.
His remarks came after a judicial decision suspended a presidential decree mandating plain tobacco packaging, which forces manufacturers to market cigarettes in neutral or generic boxes with none of the usual bright colors, images or logos.
"No tobacco company should think that this government is going to backtrack," Vazquez told reporters, after British American Tobacco filed a successful motion to block the decree.
"Public health interests are above commercial interests," said the president, adding that "the government is going to continue to categorically defend the health of the population."
While the government "respects" the resolution, it has filed a motion of its own to continue its anti-smoking policies, said Vazquez, who is a trained oncologist.
British American Tobacco alleged it was "impossible" to implement the plain packaging in the six-month period granted by the decree.
A bill mandating plain packaging has stalled in Congress.
Since Uruguay has stepped up its anti-smoking drive during Vazquez's first term as president (2005-2010), smoking has fallen from 35 percent to 21 percent of the population.
Last year, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes dismissed a lawsuit brought against Uruguay by tobacco giant Philip Morris, which alleged the anti-smoking policies were harming revenue.