Oct. 5 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – In a truly historic step for public health, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement announced today by the United States and 11 other countries includes a provision that protects the right of participating nations to adopt public health measures to reduce tobacco use and prevents tobacco companies from using the TPP to launch legal attacks on such measures.
We commend the United States and other countries that stood up to the tobacco industry and put public health first. This provision is a critical step toward ending the tobacco industry’s growing abuse of trade agreements to challenge life-saving tobacco control measures all over the world. It sets a strong precedent for other trade agreements and boosts efforts to combat a global tobacco epidemic that kills millions each year.
This safeguard for tobacco control measures is necessary and appropriate given the conduct of the tobacco industry and the uniquely harmful nature of tobacco products. Tobacco products are the only consumer products that kill when used as intended. Globally, tobacco currently kills about six million people each year and is projected to kill one billion people this century unless governments implement effective tobacco control policies. There is a global consensus that nations must act as demonstrated by an international public health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been ratified by 179 nations and the European Union.
The tobacco industry has fought back by filing – or threatening to file – costly trade lawsuits with the aim of defeating effective tobacco control measures or intimidating government into inaction. Australia and Uruguay are currently battling such lawsuits, and other countries have been threatened with them. The tobacco industry’s behavior is a real and direct threat to public health around the world, and it must be stopped.
Until Congress approves this agreement, the tobacco industry and its allies are certain to make every effort to defeat or weaken the provision protecting tobacco control measures. We urge President Obama and members of Congress to stand firm and reject these efforts.
The tobacco industry and its political allies claim this provision would harm tobacco farmers. Make no mistake: This provision would not impact trade of tobacco leaf in any way and includes language specifically exempting tobacco leaf. It is focused on preventing tobacco manufacturers’ abuse of the international trade system and addresses the actions of these manufacturers, not growers. It is shameful that tobacco companies are hiding behind tobacco growers to disguise their own wrongful and abusive behavior.
Dozens of public health groups in the U.S. and worldwide, as well as many members of Congress, have urged that tobacco control measures be protected under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We commend the Obama Administration, led by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and the other TPP countries for achieving this goal.