WTO Ruling on Clove Cigarettes Disregards Congress' Legitimate Authority to Protect America's Kids from Tobacco

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Apr. 4 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) today has wrongly concluded that a decision by the U.S. Congress on how best to protect America's children from flavored cigarettes that serve as starter products for youth violates the nation's trade obligations. Congress acted properly to protect America's kids when it included clove cigarettes in a broader prohibition on flavored cigarettes contained in the 2009 law granting the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products. There is no evidence that Congress intended to discriminate against any imported products and substantial evidence that the ban on clove cigarettes is appropriate to protect the nation's kids from tobacco.

Indonesia, which manufactures clove cigarettes, challenged the U.S. ban. The WTO ruled against the U.S. despite an earlier WTO panel's finding that Indonesia had failed to demonstrate that the law was more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill the legitimate U.S. objective of reducing youth smoking. Unfortunately, today's ruling threatens the very right of nations to protect public health that the WTO claimed to respect.

Congress acted legitimately to ban the sale of clove cigarettes based on substantial evidence that these cigarettes are smoked disproportionately by children and facilitate youth smoking initiation and addiction. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young people between the ages of 12 and 17 were two times more likely than adults age 26 or older to have smoked clove cigarettes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Clove cigarettes are sometimes referred to as 'trainer cigarettes' and may serve as 'gateway' products that introduce young people to smoking."

We urge the U.S. government to continue enforcing the law banning the sale of clove and other flavored cigarettes and to continue to act aggressively to protect America's kids from tobacco use, the nation's leading cause of preventable death.

In addition, while it should be entirely up to the U.S. to determine how to regulate tobacco products to protect public health, the FDA should take action on menthol cigarettes. We call on the FDA to implement the recommendations of its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which concluded more than a year ago that "Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States." The FDA has had more than enough time to determine how to implement the committee's recommendation in a way that maximizes the public health benefits. It is time for the FDA to act.

 

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