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New Report Details How U.S. Chamber of Commerce Helps Tobacco Industry Fight Life-Saving Policies in Over a Dozen Countries

July 16, 2015


WASHINGTON, D.C. – A report released today by an international group of public interest and health organizations builds on the recent multi-part investigation by The New York Times and provides additional documentation and detail about how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (U.S. Chamber) has helped the tobacco industry fight life-saving policies in more than a dozen countries, undermining measures intended to combat a global tobacco epidemic that threatens one billion lives this century.

The Times’ articles exposed how the U.S. Chamber and its global network of more than 100 American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) affiliates have acted as a front group for the tobacco industry in systematically fighting effective tobacco control policies around the world. The U.S. Chamber’s tactics include directly opposing countries’ health policies, pitting countries against each other in international trade disputes, and influencing international trade agreements to benefit tobacco companies.

Today’s report shows that the U.S. Chamber’s pro-tobacco activities span the globe and often target low- and middle-income countries vulnerable to bullying by the economic might of the leading U.S. business lobby. These countries include Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Jamaica, Kosovo, Moldova, Nepal, the Philippines, Uruguay and Ukraine.

The report, Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco, was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Public Citizen, Corporate Accountability International, the Framework Convention Alliance, Action on Smoking and Health (US), Smoke-Free Partnership, InterAmerican Heart Foundation, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance and the African Tobacco Control Alliance.

The U.S. Chamber has defended its activities on behalf of the tobacco industry, arguing that it is working to protect intellectual property and trademarks.

But today’s report shows that the U.S. Chamber has fought policies consistent with the international public health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which has been ratified by 179 countries and the European Union. The policies include laws related to smoke-free workplaces and public places, higher tobacco taxes, tobacco advertising bans, graphic health warnings and provisions governing tobacco packages.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce should not be using the influence of America’s business community to bully countries working to save lives with effective policies that are supported by science and law,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The Chamber’s pro-tobacco activities harm health around the world and sully the name of American business. The Chamber must change course and stop advocating for an industry that sells a uniquely lethal product and has a long history of targeting children and engaging in deadly deception.”

Although the U.S. Chamber does not publicly disclose its membership list, Altria Group, the largest tobacco company operating in the United Sates, sits on the U.S. Chamber’s board. In addition, four of the largest multinational tobacco companies – Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International – hold memberships in more than 55 local AmCham affiliates.

Today’s report includes case studies about the U.S. Chamber’s tobacco lobbying in Uruguay, Burkina Faso, Moldova, the European Union and the Philippines, with an additional list of the U.S. Chamber’s efforts in other countries to oppose a range of tobacco control policies. The U.S. Chamber’s activities, in parallel with the broader efforts of tobacco companies, have in some cases contributed to government officials weakening draft tobacco control policies. In other cases, the U.S. Chamber’s interventions have significantly delayed and complicated the efforts of governments to adopt and implement tobacco control policies.

The report recommends several actions:

  • Governments should reject the misleading arguments and threats of the U.S. Chamber and its affiliates and enact the proven tobacco control measures required by the FCTC treaty.
  • Governments should protect public health policies from interference by the tobacco industry and its allies, also as required by the treaty.
  • International trade and investment agreements should protect the sovereign right of governments to adopt public health measures aimed at reducing tobacco use and its harms.
  • The U.S. Chamber and its AmCham affiliates should publicly disclose their donors so that lawmakers and other government officials can be fully informed about their relationships with the tobacco industry.

“Governments around the world must know that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates do not represent the U.S. government or the views of the American public, and the U.S. Chamber is not a legitimate authority on public health policies. They also deserve to know exactly who the Chamber is representing,” Myers said.

Tobacco kills about six million people worldwide annually and is projected to kill one billion people this century unless current trends are reversed. More than 80 percent of these deaths will be in low- and middle-income countries.

Read the Full Report