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Trans-Pacific Partnership Includes Historic Provision Protecting Health Measures from Tobacco Industry Attack

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 05, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United States and 11 other countries published the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement reached last month. In a truly historic step for public health, this agreement includes a provision that protects the right of participating nations to adopt public health measures to reduce tobacco use and prevents tobacco companies from using the TPP to launch legal attacks on such measures.

This provision is a critical step toward ending the tobacco industry’s growing abuse of trade agreements to challenge life-saving tobacco control measures all over the world. It sets a precedent for other trade agreements and boosts efforts to combat a global tobacco epidemic that kills millions each year.

Until Congress approves this agreement, the tobacco industry and its allies are certain to make every effort to defeat or weaken the provision protecting tobacco control measures. We urge President Obama and members of Congress to stand firm and reject these efforts.

The tobacco industry and its political allies claim this provision would harm tobacco farmers. Make no mistake: This provision would not impact and explicitly exempts trade of tobacco leaf. Indeed, the agreement as a whole is helpful to tobacco farmers and many other agricultural interests. The tobacco provision is focused on preventing tobacco manufacturers’ abuse of the international trade system and addresses the actions of these manufacturers, not growers. It is shameful that tobacco companies are hiding behind tobacco growers to disguise their own wrongful and abusive behavior.

The tobacco provision protects the sovereign right of the United States and the 11 other TPP countries to adopt public health measures to reduce tobacco use and its devastating toll. It warrants strong support as Congress considers this agreement. For members of Congress supportive of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it provides one more reason to do so. Those still evaluating the agreement should consider the important protections this provision provides for public health in the United States and around the globe.

This safeguard for tobacco control measures is necessary and appropriate given the conduct of the tobacco industry and the uniquely harmful nature of tobacco products. Tobacco products are unique. They are the only consumer products that kill when used as intended. Globally, tobacco kills about six million people each year and is projected to kill one billion people this century unless governments implement effective tobacco control policies. Indeed, there is a global consensus that nations must protect the health of their citizens from the harms of tobacco – the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has been ratified by 179 nations and the European Union. This is the only international public health treaty and reflects the global commitment to ending the tobacco epidemic.

The tobacco industry has fought back by filing – or threatening to file – costly trade lawsuits with the aim of defeating effective tobacco control measures or intimidating government into inaction. Australia and Uruguay are currently battling such lawsuits, and other countries have been threatened with them. The tobacco industry’s behavior is a real and direct threat to public health around the world, and it must be stopped.

Dozens of public health groups in the U.S. and worldwide, as well as many members of Congress, have urged that tobacco control measures be protected under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We commend the Obama Administration, led by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and the other TPP countries for achieving this goal.