FairWarning Details How Tobacco Companies Use Trade Treaties to Fight Tobacco Control Measures
Article exposes Big Tobacco’s legal bullying
Posted by: Editor | Nov 29, 2012
As countries around the world adopt strong policies to reduce tobacco use, tobacco companies are turning to a new tactic to fight these measures: Challenging them as violations of international trade treaties.
A comprehensive new article by the online publication FairWarning details the scope of these tobacco industry efforts to bully countries and keep them from taking strong action to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
As top cigarette makers lose clout with national governments, countries around the world are adopting increasingly stringent rules to combat the public health burdens of smoking. To strike back, tobacco companies are increasingly invoking long-standing trade agreements to try to thwart some of the toughest laws. …
Public health advocates fear the legal attacks will deter other countries from passing strong anti-smoking measures. The “cost of defending this case, and the risk of being held liable, would intimidate all but the most wealthy, sophisticated countries into inaction,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington D.C.
The dispute underlines broader concerns about trade provisions that enable foreign companies to challenge health, labor and environmental standards. Once a country ratifies a trade agreement, its terms supersede domestic laws. If a country’s regulations are found to impose unreasonable restrictions on trade, it must amend the rules or compensate the nation or foreign corporation that brought the complaint.
Advocates say countries should be free to decide how best to protect public health, without being second-guessed by unelected trade panels. Moreover, they argue, tobacco products, which kill when used as intended, should not be afforded the trade protections of other goods and services.
These tactics underscore the need for the United States and other countries to work to exclude tobacco products from trade and investment agreements. These agreements should not promote or increase use of tobacco products, and they should not prohibit any nation from using its sovereign authority to protect public health by taking action to reduce tobacco use.
In particular, the U.S. should move forward with a proposal to protect nations’ authority to adopt tobacco control measures under the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which the U.S. is currently negotiating with other Pacific Rim countries. The proposed language would prevent such tobacco control measures from being challenged as violations of the agreement. The U.S. indicated in May that it would formally offer such language, but it has yet to do so and has stated it will not do so at the next round of negotiations in December.
The FairWarning article shows why it is critical that the U.S. move forward with this proposal.