New York Times: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Fights for Big Tobacco
Posted by: Editor | Jun 30, 2015
An in-depth story published today in The New York Times exposes how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has worked systematically in countries around the world to help the tobacco industry fight life-saving measures to reduce tobacco use.
The Times story examines the U.S. Chamber’s three-pronged approach to fighting back against life-saving measures to reduce tobacco use like smoke-free indoor public places, graphic warning labels on tobacco products, restrictions on tobacco marketing and increased tobacco taxes.
The U.S. Chamber’s tactics, deployed in countries ranging from Nepal to the Philippines to Uruguay, include:
Opposing countries’ health policies: In letters to officials of countries trying to pass policies to reduce tobacco use, the U.S. Chamber has voiced strong “concerns” about such laws, even suggesting in some instances that opposing tobacco companies’ wishes could cause economic harm to the countries.
Pitting countries against each other: Ukraine became embroiled in a lengthy international trade dispute with Australia at the request of the U.S. Chamber’s local affiliate.
Influencing international trade agreements to benefit tobacco companies: The U.S. Chamber has staunchly opposed measures in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would protect countries’ sovereign rights to implement life-saving public health policies.
While the U.S Chamber identifies itself as the “world’s largest business organization,” it has failed to fully disclose the organizations it lobbies for and their financial contributions, including those of Big Tobacco.
Today’s story in the Times quotes Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva – a World Health Organization Official who oversees the global tobacco control treaty - as saying “[The U.S. Chamber] represents the interest of the tobacco industry…They are putting their feet everywhere where there are stronger regulations coming up.”
Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, echoed Dr. da Costa’s sentiments stating in the Times story that the U.S. Chamber is “the tobacco industry’s most formidable front group,” and that “it pops up everywhere.”
All of the countries mentioned in today’s story are parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global health treaty which obligates countries to implement proven measures to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco currently kills more than six million people worldwide annually and is projected to kill one billion people this century unless current trends are reversed.
Government officials trying to protect public health should be wary when the U.S. Chamber comes calling to do the bidding of the tobacco industry, and the U.S. Chamber should publicly disclose its donors so that officials can be fully informed about their relationships with the tobacco industry.