ASH Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report
January 11, 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. The original report revealed to the world the scientific fact that smoking causes disease and death, and was so groundbreaking that its release was held on a Saturday to minimize the impact on the stock market. A new public health initiative was born, both in the U.S. and abroad, culminating in the world’s first health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Although the 1964 report examined the impact of tobacco on Americans, the rest of the world was also listening. The U.S. public health service was and is highly respected globally, and much of the scientific data analyzed by the expert committee came from foreign scientists, particularly in the United Kingdom. The new Surgeon General’s report, released this past January, also included data from around the world.
Those familiar with the tobacco control movement are no strangers to the fact that tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. and the world, causing one in five deaths here at home and killing over 6 million people per year worldwide. The epidemic has shifted dramatically in the 50 years since the 1964 report. At the time, it was a disease of the wealthy. Today, it is a particular burden for the global poor.
The good news is there is a solution: The WHO FCTC is the blueprint for effective tobacco control guidelines that will save lives!
This year ASH will release its report A Half Century of Avoidable Death: A Global Perspective on Tobacco in America. This report examines current laws in the U.S. and highlights domestic successes, failures and comparisons to the best practices around the globe. The tobacco control community has recognized that we must combat the epidemic by examining the problem through a global lens and that one of the greatest tools at our disposal is the WHO FCTC. Please stay tuned for our report release this spring.
For the last three years, ASH has been leading the charge to remove tobacco products from free trade agreements. These agreements give corporations broad new rights and protections, lower the cost of products, and diminish the regulatory authority of governments. This is all bad news when it comes to tobacco, but worst of all is the further spread of the right of tobacco companies to directly sue governments over tobacco regulations.
As you may recall, ASH saw a major return on its efforts last August, when Malaysia proposed a full exemption for tobacco from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, the first such proposal in the history of trade negotiations. This would mean that all of the rights and privileges afforded to other products would not apply to tobacco, including the right to sue.
Since August, ASH and its allies have worked tirelessly to create a public health consensus in support of exempting tobacco from the TPP and other trade agreements here in the U.S. The list of organizations that now publicly support exemptions – or “carve-outs” – is impressive, and includes the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of State Legislators, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officers, and many others.
On January 27, 2014, we had perhaps our biggest domestic success. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the most powerful group of lawyers in the country, whose job it is to defend state legislation against lawsuits, wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman “to request that the United States Trade Representative act to preserve the ability of state and local governments to regulate tobacco products to protect the public health.” Incredibly, this letter was signed by attorneys general from 43 states. According to contacts at NAAG, no issue has garnered such bipartisan support from NAAG in at least a generation.
The fight is not over, but the tide is turning. As TPP negotiations enter the final stages and negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) begin, ASH has ensured that tobacco exemptions are part of the discussion. It is time tobacco was treated as the unique product that it is – the only consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended.
The eight Open Working Group (OWG) sessions on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have concluded and the stocktaking phase of the post-2015 agenda is now complete. ASH has been working with the informal health in post-2015 advocacy group to produce a collaborative position paper on health and population dynamics in the post-2015 development framework. The paper includes the priorities for health and proposes how health should be integrated in the SDG framework. This paper will be used for advocacy during the decision-making phase this spring and summer. Click here to read the position paper. An annex with specific recommendations, including proposed targets and indicators, is available here.
- ASH at the United Nations
On March 10, 2014, ASH Campaign Coordinator Shana Narula spoke on a panel at the UN for a side event at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 58: The MDGs, Post-2015 and Beijing+20 – regional perspective series (North America and Europe) Programme. She highlighted the significant impact of tobacco and NCDs on women’s health and the importance of integrating tobacco control and NCDs in the post-2015 development agenda, specifically the SDGs. Click here to watch her statement at the 40 minute mark.
- UN NCD Review and Assessment
The UN General Assembly will host in New York a comprehensive review and assessment on the prevention and control of NCDs to follow up on the 2011 high-level meeting. The review is required as a result of the UN Political Declaration. This meeting is expected to take place in July 2014. In January, the Secretary General released a report outlining the progress made on NCDs since the high level meeting. Click here to read the SG’s progress report.
EYE ON THE INDUSTRY
In 2012, ASH launched the Tobacco Contribution Map highlighting the industry’s involvement in congressional campaigns. This year we will continue to track contributions by updating the map and in May, during the annual World No Tobacco Day event, will recognize and publicly thank representatives who have not accepted campaign money from the tobacco industry in the last ten years. We will also take this opportunity to publicly encourage those representatives who do accept tobacco funding to discontinue this practice and stand on the side of public health. Please stays tuned for more information on our media campaign and the updated map, and urge your representative to refuse tobacco funding.
Tobacco Control News
CVS, the nation’s second largest drug store chain, announced on February 5 that it will stop selling tobacco products at all of its 7000+ stores by October 1st. This is the largest chain of drug stores in the world to refuse to sell tobacco. CVS joins another big retail chain – Target – which made a similar decision in the early 1990s. ASH has congratulated CVS and plans to meet with some of their executives to discuss how they may further combat the tobacco epidemic.
This is welcome news for a number of obvious reasons, and perhaps some less obvious ones. First, the move shows that CVS has clearly placed health and wellness as its highest priority. Second, the move puts greater pressure on other retailers, such as Walgreens and Walmart, to follow suit. Third, it makes it easier for former smokers and those trying to quit to shop without facing the temptation of tobacco displays at the checkout. And fourth, children won’t be exposed to tobacco ads every time they shop with their parents at CVS.
Going deeper into the decision, there is more good news. CVS is a publicly-traded corporation, with shareholders who demand profits. We are not privy to CVS’ analysis, but must assume that they feel this decision will enhance profits in the long term. This not only means other retailers are likely to follow suit, but that tobacco’s profitability in general is on the cusp of a downturn.
This is also good news from a price standpoint. Economics 101 teaches us that when you reduce the supply of a product, the price goes up. Because increasing the price of tobacco – usually through taxes – is one of the best ways to encourage people to quit and to stop children from starting, this alone should have an effect. There may also be small markets where this decrease in supply will have an even greater impact, such as in small towns in rural areas where CVS is the only drug store.
Congratulations to CVS. Now, who will be next?
Fifty years after the first U.S. surgeon general’s report declared smoking a hazard to human health, the tally of smoking-related effects keeps rising, with liver and colorectal cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even erectile dysfunction joining the list, according to a report released Friday, January 10, 2014. The report, the first in more than a decade, found that smoking has killed more than 20 million Americans prematurely in the last half century, and warns that, if current trends continue, another 5.6 million children are at risk of dying. “Enough is enough,” acting Surgeon General Dr Boris Lushniak said in a telephone interview. “We need to eliminate the use of cigarettes and create a tobacco-free generation.” Click here to read the full Surgeon General Report>
FDA Issues First Orders to Stop Sale, Distribution of Tobacco Products
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued orders in February to stop the further sale and distribution of four tobacco products currently on the market. The action marks the first time the FDA has used its authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to order a manufacturer of currently available tobacco products to stop selling and distributing them. Click here to read the FDA full release>
The European Parliament stood on the side of public health in the tobacco vote in February. The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) endorsement strengthens the current European regulation on tobacco in several ways. Among other measures, it increases the size of the pictorial and text health warnings to cover 65% of tobacco packages and bans flavored cigarettes and features on packaging that play down the health risks of smoking. There is evidence to show that these measures encourage smokers to quit and discourage non-smokers from starting. Click here to read more about the decision>
We have recently started a new blog series on Legal Updates in Tobacco control. In this blog, our Staff Attorney, Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, presents and analyzes legal issues in all aspects of tobacco control, both domestically and internationally. Previous posts have included the legal classification of e-cigarettes as tobacco products, the legality of tobacco marketing, and an analysis of 2013 tobacco control victories. If you would like to learn more about a particular law, case or tobacco regulation or participate in the discussion, please leave a comment on the blog! Check out the Legal Updates Blog here>
ASH has been very busy this first quarter of 2014 fighting for your health and the health of your loved ones…..for generations to come.
In its most basic role, ASH works tirelessly to ensure that tobacco control is, at the very least, a part of the discussion and that the voice of our movement is heard. But that is just the first step in achieving ASH’s mission of inspiring and facilitating tangible change. Our efforts in education, advocacy, and policy negotiation result in tobacco control measures being included in laws at the state and country level, international trade agreements, and global health and economic development goals.
Please help us strengthen our fight by making a donation today. And, you can rest assured knowing your generous contributions will go even further as ASH strives to minimize expenses and maximize impact. In fact, our next e-newsletter (and all subsequent newsletters) will be changed to a digest format so we can continue to bring you all the latest news about ASH through a simplified process that will allow staff to devote more time to our crucial programs.
The world is counting on us to stop the disease and death caused by tobacco. And we are counting on you.