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U.S. Lawmakers to President Obama: Protect Tobacco Control Measures under Trade Pact

November 01, 2013


Fifty-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week signed a letter to President Obama urging him to protect nations’ authority to adopt tobacco control measures under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. The United States is negotiating the trade pact with 11 other countries.

Last year, the United States Trade Representative announced that it would propose strong language recognizing that tobacco products are uniquely harmful and protecting tobacco control measures from being challenged as a violation of the TPP. But in August, the U.S. backed off this strong language and offered a much weaker proposal.

“These weaker provisions, combined with concessions to lower tariffs on tobacco products, would likely lead to greater consumption of a deadly product, particularly in developing countries,” the letter states. “The United States should be leading the fight against death and disease from tobacco products, which are a uniquely dangerous threat to public health.”

“Tobacco companies are exploiting trade law to undermine commonsense efforts to reduce smoking and needless death from tobacco use,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who with Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) organized the letter. “These actions are appalling, and the Administration must do all it can to ensure there are barriers to abusive suits in the TPP.”

This issue is important because “trade agreements have become a weapon of choice for tobacco companies seeking to thwart the toughest rules,” wrote journalist Myron Levin of FairWarning. The industry has used trade and investment agreements to challenge legitimate tobacco control measures in several countries, including the U.S., Australia, Uruguay, Ireland, Norway and Turkey.

These costly challenges are aimed not only at defeating tobacco control measures, but also at bullying governments so they don’t act at all. Unless nations take strong action, tobacco will kill one billion people worldwide this century. The United States should be leading the fight against this global epidemic.