May. 2 2001
Geneva, Switzerland — We are outraged at the Bush Administration's apparent reversal of the United States' international tobacco policy during ongoing negotiations in Geneva on the proposed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first treaty on tobacco. The U.S. this week has repeatedly made proposals that would weaken critical provisions of the draft convention and severely undermine its potential to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco around the world. If implemented domestically in the United States, these proposals would give the tobacco industry the weak and ineffective approach to tobacco regulation that it seeks. These proposals sound more like those of the tobacco industry than of a world leader in international health.
Specifically, the United States has sought to:
Eliminate a provision calling on nations to prohibit the use of dangerously deceptive terms like low tar, light and mild to market tobacco products. Tobacco companies have used such terms to convey the impression of reduced risk from their products despite knowing that is not the case. The result has been to deter smokers from quitting. The U.S. supported prohibiting tobacco industry claims only if they are clearly false, misleading or deceptive, but not if they would otherwise harm public health.
Delete provisions that would prohibit tax-free and duty-free sales of cigarettes and call for "imposition of taxes on tobacco products so as to achieve a stable and continuous reduction in tobacco consumption."
Reconsider a provision encouraging governments to protect non-smokers by banning smoking in workplaces and public buildings.
Delete a provision supporting the licensing of tobacco retailers as an effective means to enforce youth access laws, which are already in place in many American states.
Weaken the overall obligations of nations to implement the provisions of the proposed treaty.
Along with the Bush Administration's failure to provide the necessary funding to continue the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco industry, these international proposals indicate that U.S. policy on tobacco has taken a disturbing turn for the worse. We urge President Bush to reconsider this course so that the United States remains a leader in protecting our kids and fighting the tobacco epidemic.
The tobacco industry invested $8.3 million in campaign contributions during the past election to buy a reversal in U.S. tobacco policy both domestically and internationally. The U.S. and the world would pay a high price if that were to happen. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. Worldwide, about four million people die each year from tobacco-related disease, with this figure projected to rise to about 10 million per year by 2030. We hope these statistics speak louder than $8.3 million in influence peddling.
(The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Lung Association are participating as non-governmental observers in the negotiations on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.)