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The experiences of an ASH intern (Part 1)

Guest Blog: What I did this summer

By Matt Romeo

This summer I was given the opportunity to intern at ASH to learn about the inner workings of a non-profit organization and its role in tobacco control. Before I started my internship, I had a limited understanding of what ASH does and its push for tobacco control. Yet after a summer of incredible experiences and with the mentoring of a wonderful staff, I learned a lot about the disease, damage and death caused by tobacco and gained many valuable insights.

My First Day

Like any first day of a job or internship, I was a little nervous. My understanding of tobacco control was limited and I only knew a little bit about ASH’s role. After completing a quick review of ASH’s website, I was given a briefing on what ASH does. ASH is the secretariat of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), which was formed to support the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC, ratified by 179 of the 194 World Health Organization member states, is the first global public health treaty and a major step forward in terms of tobacco control.

In addition to their work with the FCA, ASH also has several other programs that serve different tobacco control purposes. These programs include: the Tobacco Criminal Liability Project, the Tobacco Industry Monitoring program, the trade program and a program on Sustainable Development Goals. While the explanation only took about fifteen minutes, it took me almost the entire summer to comprehend the full breadth and depth of ASH’s tobacco control efforts.

With all the acronyms and technical terms, ASH’s work can be confusing to someone who does not have a background in tobacco control. The easiest way to understand what ASH does is to look at tobacco in two ways. There are organizations that promote cessation programs, programs that help current tobacco users quit, and then there are organizations that promote preventative measures, either through anti-tobacco campaigns, legislation or legal means. ASH is in the latter category; they attempt to limit tobacco consumption by holding tobacco companies liable for the deaths they have caused and by promoting the enforcement of tobacco control legislation in the United States and around the world.

Towards the end of my first day, I was given a list of all the things that I was going to be working on throughout the summer.  The list looked daunting at first, but I was excited about the opportunity to do so many interesting things. The great part about interning at ASH is that, unlike other internships, I was not limited to one monotonous task, because ASH included me in tasks for several of their programs. Each aspect of my internship provided new challenges, and each challenge allowed me to learn something new.

Research 

swiss pic

Fact I found to help promote an ASH Case Study

Throughout the summer, I researched a variety of topics, including state tobacco control facts, the progress of standardized packaging around the world, and information that led to the development of a divestment toolkit for college students. While sitting at a desk for eight hours a day reading articles and looking up facts could have been tiresome, I found it fascinating to discover the seriousness of the tobacco epidemic first-hand.  By taking the time to read through the reports that first stated these facts, like the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, I was able to understand how dire the tobacco epidemic is around the world.

Each fact and each article made me want to find out more about the global tobacco problem, and the further I got into my research, the more interested and motivated I became. The research that I completed helped me better understand the global tobacco epidemic, which in turn motivated me to work harder and more diligently on the tasks given to me.

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Tobacco farmers are a pawn in the TPP game

But tobacco farmers are not part of the game

Mitch McConnell and other pro-tobacco politicians have become very vocal over the past two weeks in their opposition to a potential partial tobacco exemption in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. And just as in so many other political debates, they are citing the plight of the farmer and rural America. In truth, tobacco leaf has been explicitly left out of any discussion on treating tobacco products uniquely in the TPP; Senator McConnell and his allies are using tobacco farmers as a distraction for their efforts to support the multinational tobacco industry. Trade blog - August

The negotiating text of the TPP is secret, but through leaks and anonymous sources, we know of three proposals that would deal with tobacco in the Agreement:

1.) A full carve-out, or exemption, for tobacco measures, proposed by Malaysia in 2013. This would mean that nothing in the free trade agreement would apply to tobacco.

2.) A notation that tobacco measures fall under the general health exception, proposed by the United States in 2013. This pays only lip service to protecting governments’ sovereign right to regulate tobacco.

3.) A carve-out for tobacco measures in the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which would prevent the tobacco industry from being able to directly sue governments. This has not been formally proposed, but is apparently supported by a number of countries. This is also the target of the ire of pro-tobacco Members of Congress.

These three proposals have one thing in common: they all refer to “manufactured tobacco products,” a term explicitly meant not to apply to tobacco leaf. Under any of the above measures, tobacco leaf would enjoy the same trade privileges as any other product, including zero tariffs. Regulations to reduce consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products are at the core of the debate in the TPP.

So why is Senator McConnell using farmers as a shield for the tobacco industry?

As is too often the case in American politics, we need only follow the money.

Mitch McConnell was the second biggest recipient of tobacco industry campaign contributions in the last election cycle, to the tune of $120,475. Two of his most vocal colleagues, Thom Tillis and George Holding, were the 4th and 14th biggest recipients, respectively.

After more than half a century of battling tobacco consumption, and burying 100 million victims in the 20th century alone, it is staggering that there are still powerful people willing to use their clout to protect the tobacco industry.

Senator McConnell, I put it to you: what will your grandchildren think?

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E-cigarettes proving to be a danger to teens

In 2014, e-cigarettes surpassed cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product by middle school and high school students, according to an annual U.S. survey.

Teens’ fascination with this nicotine-dispensing smoking alternative worries physicians and toxicologists. Data from a growing number of studies indicate that electronic cigarettes are far from harmless. They also pose their own addiction risk.

Chemicals in e-cigarettes can damage lung tissue and reduce the lungs’ ability to keep germs and other harmful substances from entering the body, studies have found (SN: 12/27/14, p. 20). The flavored e-cig liquids can do their own damage. And the lungs — not to mention the young brain (see “Nico-teen brain,” below) — may be particularly vulnerable to nicotine’s effects.

Read more>

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Will Trans-Pacific trade deal go up in smoke over anti-tobacco proposal?

Big Tobacco is pushing back against a strict anti-smoking provision in the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and has enlisted the support of the most powerful Republican in the Senate to help quash it.

The ire of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other tobacco-state lawmakers could throw a wrench into the delicate negotiations to close the agreement and secure congressional approval. President Barack Obama sees the deal as essential to securing his economic legacy.
Story Continued Below

Until now, McConnell has been among the president’s staunchest allies on the pact, which includes the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan and eight other Pacific Rim nations and would cover 40 percent of the world’s economic output.

Read more>

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce fights anti-smoking laws worldwide. So what?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it turns out, actively campaigns against anti-tobacco laws in countries around the world.

The New York Times recently reported that the national business lobbying organization, along with its foreign affiliates, has become “the hammer for the tobacco industry, engaging in a worldwide effort to fight antismoking laws of all kinds.”
Read more>

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McConnell warns Obama against tobacco carve-out in trade deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is warning U.S. officials negotiating a massive trans-Pacific trade agreement for President Obama not to target tobacco growers in a final deal.

McConnell said singling out the tobacco industry would set a dangerous precedent for future trade deals, in a letter to Obama’s top trade representative.

The missive from McConnell suggests that congressional approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal with 11 other countries that is the central goal of Obama’s trade policy, could be jeopardized by the tobacco language.

Read more>

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The cool factor: Teens report positive feedback to using e-cigarettes

An estimated 40 percent of teen users of e-cigarettes have never smoked tobacco, a new report finds, adding to the worries that the devices are attracting a whole new group of underage user, not just teens trying to quit regular cigarettes. Even more alarming, 91 percent of teens who use e-cigarettes report getting positive feedback about them.

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Australia has spent $50 million defending plain packaging in trade dispute.

Australia’s legal bill for defending its cigarette plain packaging legislation is set to hit $50 million as it battles to contain a case brought by tobacco giant Philip Morris before a tribunal in Singapore.

And that is just for the first stage. If in September the three-person extraterritorial tribunal decides Australia has a case to answer, the hearing will move on to substantive matters and the bills will become far bigger.

The West Australian newspaper revealed on Tuesday that former treasurer Wayne Swan was called to Singapore in February to give evidence for Australia in a secret hearing.

Among the witnesses called by Philip Morris has been former High Court judge Ian Callinan, who was quizzed about administrative law.
Read more>

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Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products: A Worldwide Movement to Address a Global Challenge

July 20, 2015 – Paris, France

The Ministers and representatives of Ministers of Australia, France, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and the Head of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat met in Paris on 20th July 2015 to discuss ways to reduce tobacco use through effective tobacco control strategies and policies, especially standardized packaging of tobacco products.

Press Statement>

Press Kit: Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products: A Worldwide Movement to Address a Global Challenge

paris plain packs

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Why we need to tax tobacco

Let’s be clear.  Tobacco use, and its negative health, social and economic impact, is not a global problem that is simply going away.

As documented in a recent study, despite significant reductions in the estimated prevalence of daily smoking observed at the global level for both men and women since 1980, the actual number of smokers has increased significantly over the last three decades as the result of population growth.  In 2012, it is estimated that close to one billion people were smokers, up from 721 million in 1980.

Clearly, tobacco use is a global epidemic. If we do not want to be passive spectators to the unhindered growth of this threat to global health, then political will at the highest levels of government needs to be galvanized, coupled with sustained support from civil society and international organizations.

Read more>

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On Our Way to Achieving the “Impossible”

When ASH first began its post-2015 UN development agenda campaign in 2013, it was perceived as nearly impossible to integrate tobacco control into the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), let alone the Financing for Development (FfD) process. At this point, we are on our way to checking both items off of our to-do list.

In September 2015, member states will adopt the new SDGs, and they will go into effect in January 2016. The SDGs include a standalone target to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). This is in part a result of ASH’s leadership at the UN for the last two years. The SDGs also include a target on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which will benefit tobacco control efforts greatly. SDG streams

Overall, the SDGs include a whole host of indicators that will be used to measure the SDGs’ goals and targets. The most recent proposed list includes an indicator on tobacco use prevalence among persons 18 years and older. We will work to protect this proposed indicator and push for a second indicator under the FCTC target before they become finalized in March 2016.

The Financing for Development process has been in full force over the past few months at the UN in New York and at the FfD conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this week. Member states have been diligently working to figure out how they are going to pay for the SDGs they created.

We have just learned that world leaders attending the FfD conference in Addis have agreed that “price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health care costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries.” They also agreed that Parties will strengthen implementation of the FCTC and support mechanisms to raise awareness and mobilize resources.

In practice, this means that governments should routinely look at the role that their tobacco tax policy might play when they consider how to reach development objectives, including the SDGs.  Increasing taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective ways to decrease consumption.  So this inclusion in the SDG financing document is a victory for public health.

We have made great strides since the beginning of this campaign. Upon finalization of the post-2015 agenda, we hope to see a huge impact on global tobacco control at the national level.

Increasing taxes on tobacco products could save governments enormous amounts of money on tobacco-related health costs and could save millions of lives!

Here’s to more progress in global tobacco control around the world for the next 15 years!

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Full Text from Financing For Development Conference in Addis

WHO Tobacco Taxation Report

Advocates’ Guide to Tobacco Taxation Implementation

Zero Draft of the Outcome Document for the SDGs

Economist View of Why We Need to Tax Tobacco

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Canada on edge of global fight over tobacco packaging

Canada’s government is watching and waiting as a global fight over tobacco packaging laws plays out.

Tobacco companies and business lobbyists around the world are pushing back against rules that further restrict the design of tobacco product packaging. That includes efforts to ensure the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement doesn’t include carve-outs that allow for the tobacco industry to be regulated more harshly than others.

Where lobbying hasn’t worked, a few large tobacco producers have sued several governments in recent years through international arbitration and domestic courts for introducing so-called plain packaging laws.

Those laws typically require that health warnings cover all or most of tobacco packages, and ban any designs that make the packages attractive or easily distinguishable from one another.

Canada’s government is likely to take on the issue of stricter tobacco packaging rules, say groups that support and oppose such measures. If and when it does, it could expose itself to similar legal action.

Read more>

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Eight Senators Appeal to Chamber of Commerce President

July 8, 2015 – Senators Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, and Jeffrey A. Merkley sent a letter to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, calling on him “to reconsider and to refocus” the Chamber’s efforts “in a more positive direction.”

Read full letter>

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CVS Health Quits U.S. Chamber Over Stance on Smoking

The CVS Health Corporation said on Tuesday that it would resign from theU.S. Chamber of Commerce after revelations that the chamber and its foreign affiliates were undertaking a global lobbying campaign against antismoking laws.

CVS, which last year stopped selling tobacco products in its stores, said the lobbying activity ran counter to its mission to improve public health.

“We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” David R. Palombi, a senior vice president at the company, said in a statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.”

Read more>

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Released: WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2015

The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2015 has been released.

It is available here>

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#USChamberExposed

On June 30, 2015, The New York Times released a tiered investigation to expose the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) affiliates as a front group for Big Tobacco.

The New York Times reported that the US Chamber and its affiliates, “use their access to high-level decision makers and indeterminate funds to influence, intimidate, and pressure policymakers trying to develop and implement public health policies designed to reduce tobacco use.”

Dr. Vera da Costa e Silva, the head of the Secretariat that oversees the W.H.O tobacco treaty, said, “there is a misconception that the American chamber of commerce represents the government of the U.S.”

The Times continued, “In some places like Estonia, the lines are blurred. The United States ambassador there, Jeffrey Levine, serves as honorary president of the chamber’s local affiliate; the affiliate quoted Philip Morris in a publication outlining its priorities.” 

 

Today, July 16th, international public health groups respond with a new report: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco.

Click Here to View the Report

Click Here to View the Report

This report further describes how the U.S. Chamber and its AmCham affiliates have joined the tobacco industry in fighting effective tobacco control policies in multiple countries – often without fully disclosing that they are working with the tobacco industry – implying that the full force of the U.S. business community is behind these efforts and that economic harm could result if countries move forward.

The report includes five recent case studies from Uruguay, Burkina Faso, Moldova, the European Union and the Philippines and lists other known attempts by the U.S. Chamber to oppose a range of tobacco control policies including graphic health warnings, tobacco advertising restrictions and increased tobacco taxes.

It is time for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to stop fighting public health measures. If you agree, sign this petition>

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(RELEASE): BROWN, BLUMENTHAL AND DEMOCRATIC SENATE COLLEAGUES ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE’S GLOBAL LOBBYING FOR BIG TOBACCO

For Immediate Release:

July 2, 2015

Contact: Meghan Dubyak / Rachel Petri

202-224-1175

BROWN, BLUMENTHAL AND DEMOCRATIC SENATE COLLEAGUES ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE’S GLOBAL LOBBYING FOR BIG TOBACCO

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) issued the following statement on recent reports regarding the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s global lobbying to advance interests of Big Tobacco:

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s decision to use its international clout to fight regulations of tobacco products around the world is craven and unconscionable. Commerce member companies should be concerned that their good name is sullied in efforts to strike down public health protections worldwide. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is, in effect, renting its letterhead and name to big tobacco, contrary to responsible corporate interests and Americans’ interests in improving global public health. We urge the chamber to rethink this strategy and instead find partners to help improve global public health, not strengthen efforts that will worsen the health of millions globally and cause innumerable deaths from tobacco usage.”

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Obama Can Help End Tobacco Epidemic, Says ASH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Megan Arendt

Office: 202-659-4310

Email: arendtm@ash.org

Obama Can Help End Tobacco Epidemic, Says ASH

Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) Calls on President Obama to Choose Health Over Profits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 24, 2015 – President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Froman have the opportunity to curb the tobacco epidemic forever. The Senate voted to pass the Trade Promotion Authority Bill (TPA or Fast-Track) which creates an expedited process to get trade bills through Congress, paving the way for Obama’s signature.

Now that Fast-Track has passed, the President and Ambassador Froman will turn their attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), an emerging trade and investment agreement being negotiated by the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The agreement, once completed, will be the largest regional trading block in the world and will serve as the model for 21st century trade agreements. How tobacco is treated now will set the precedent for how tobacco will be treated in TTIP (The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), an even larger agreement, and in future trade agreements worldwide.

As the only consumer good that kills half of its consumers when used exactly as intended, tobacco has become a major issue in the TPP negotiations, with public health and other groups banding together to call for unique treatment of tobacco products. “The purpose of international trade agreements is the free movement of goods, and tobacco is no good,” stated Prakit Vathesatogkit of Thailand during the global tobacco treaty negotiations in Moscow this past October.

The outcomes of the TPP negotiations will have a huge impact on tobacco control and global health. The tobacco industry has long used litigation, and trade agreements in particular, as a tool to block public health and tobacco control laws. For example, Philip Morris International created “legal chill” by threatening to sue Togo, one of the 10 poorest countries on earth, if Togo implemented graphic health warning labels on cigarette packs. Additionally, Australia and Uruguay are currently being sued over their tobacco packaging laws.

In 2011, two U.S. tobacco companies sued the FDA over an advisory report that simply considered a ban of menthol cigarettes. The tobacco industry is very comfortable using litigation as a tool, and if tobacco is included in the TPP, tobacco companies will use the TPP to their full advantage to prevent governments from enacting policies that protect the health of their citizens.

The TPP represents a crucial moment for tobacco control. President Obama and USTR Ambassador Froman should insist that tobacco be granted a full “carve out” from the TPP and from all other trade agreements. A “carve out” means that tobacco products will be excluded from the right and benefits of the trade agreement, providing governments with protection to regulate tobacco inside their borders without fear of being sued by the tobacco industry.

Furthermore, all of the TPP countries (except the U.S.) have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a legally binding international treaty, and have an obligation to implement its measures.  Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) says, “[FCTC] Article 5.3 Guidelines, Recommendation 7.1 says the tobacco industry must not be given any incentives to run its business. Hence the TPPA, a new agreement, should reflect this clause.” The U.S. has not ratified the FCTC, but as a signatory, the U.S. should strive to reach the tobacco control best practices set out in the FCTC.

Unlike other consumer products included in trade agreements that can become harmful when abused or overused, there is no “safe” use or amount of tobacco. Tobacco is the only consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended. The tobacco industry seeks to increase consumption of tobacco, while ASH and its public health allies seek a higher level of global health. There is no “happy medium” to be found between the tobacco industry and the public health community.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 billion people will die from tobacco this century unless drastic actions are taken. One of those critical actions to take is carving tobacco products out of trade agreements. It is impossible to predict how many lives hang in the balance of the trade debate, but it is certainly millions worldwide. ASH encourages President Obama and Ambassador Froman to utilize TPP has a tool in the global fight against tobacco.

ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber says “The TPP is a moment in history for Obama – he is making a choice about how to treat tobacco that will echo for decades to come. Hopefully that choice is to protect health over profit and carve tobacco out of the TPP.”

 

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ACTION ON SMOKING AND HEALTH

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is the nation’s oldest anti-tobacco organization dedicated to health for all. ASH was formed in 1967 in response to the U.S. Surgeon General Report in order to use legal action to fight tobacco and protect nonsmokers. Today, because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH uses global tools to counter the global tobacco epidemic. Learn more about our programs at www.ash.org.

Follow us on Twitter @ASHOrg and Facebook www.Facebook.com/ASHglobalAction

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A Victory for Standardized Packaging

Earlier this month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures showing that tobacco and cigarette consumption in Australia have dropped dramatically. Household tobacco consumption and expenditure volume has dropped 17.5% in the last two and a half years.

This extraordinary decline can be linked to two things.

First, Australia has increased taxes twice over the past two years. This connection is not a surprise; taxes have been proven as an extremely effective way to decrease tobacco consumption. But the second implementation is groundbreaking. In December 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to implement standardized (or plain) packaging.

Standardized packaging, also known as plain packaging, refers to tobacco product packaging that is required by law to remove all branding, including colors, images, logos and trademarks. Tobacco corporations are allowed to print only the brand name on the packs, and the name must meet requirements for size, font and placement. The rest of the pack is dedicated to health warnings and other required information.

Standardized Cigarette Packaging

Standardized Cigarette Packaging via ASH Australia

The goal is to ban colorful, glamorous and exciting tobacco product packaging that so often targets and appeals to young people.

There have been arguments from the tobacco industry that standardized packaging doesn’t work. They argue that it will lead to an increase in illicit sales because it will be easier to counterfeit the packages.  In Australia, this has been proven to be extremely exaggerated. Read more here>.

Furthermore, tobacco companies argue that standardized packaging does not decrease smoking. But, the numbers speak for themselves. Australia has clearly proven the tobacco industry wrong.

Several countries, including Ireland, England and Scotland, are working to implement standardized packaging in their countries as well.

We hope that Ireland, England, Scotland and many other countries will follow Australia’s lead to implement standardized packaging and dramatic decrease tobacco consumption.  Follow ASH’s blog and news updates for the latest on standardized packaging around the world.

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International Smoke-free Air Successes

Many Americans view smoking, and secondhand smoke, as a problem that has mostly been solved, at least in the United States.

However, only half of all Americans are protected from exposure to secondhand smoke, whether in public places or at work.

Several countries around the world have achieved complete protection for their citizens. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ASH has written case studies on two of these success stories: France, Uruguay. Now we add a third, Switzerland, which presents a more mixed result in a federal system similar to the U.S.

ASH’s case studies are meant to help illustrate how these countries addressed the problem of secondhand smoke and to help provide guidance to countries that are still working toward complete protection for their citizens.

FRANCE

Many people thought smoke-free air in France was impossible. The very image of France was of people eating, drinking, and smoking in outdoor cafes. Smoking was glamourized and thought to be inextricably linked to French culture. However, now France has a comprehensive smoke-free air law. Here are some of the primary lessons learned from the fight for smoke-free air in France. France Case Study

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try again
    • France tried to implement a law that included smoke-free air as early as 1991. However, the law was vague and poorly enforced. When the new smoke-free laws were written, the drafters were careful to avoid these same mistakes, and the new law was much stronger.
  • Use litigation as a tool for public health
    • Litigation was strategically used to enforce France’s original smoke-free law, in order to raise public awareness and to press for stronger enforcement. Private litigation also raised the profile of this issue.

 

Of course, smoke-free air in France was much more complicated than these two lessons. To read more about the path to smoke-free air in France, read our case study here>

URUGUAY

Smoking, and secondhand smoke, continues to be a growing problem in Latin America. In the early 2000s, a study in seven Latin American countries found second-hand smoke in 94% of the public locations surveyed, including not only in bars and restaurants but also in schools, government buildings, and other places where smoking was prohibited by law. Read more here>. However, Uruguay has managed to buck the trend and create a very comprehensive smoke-free air law. Here are some of the lessons to learn from Uruguay. Uruguay Case Study

  • Utilize the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)
    • The FCTC is based on science and best practice, and it is backed by the WHO, the world’s leading health authority. As a small country, Uruguay found the FCTC invaluable as a tool to convince policymakers and civil society of both the need for tobacco regulations and the efficacy of the proposed interventions. Uruguay did not need to “reinvent the whee.” The FCTC already provided ample evidence of the effectiveness of nearly all potential tobacco control measures.
  • Fight tobacco, not smokers
    • Uruguay involved nearly a third of its population in the “Thanks a Million” campaign, which garnered 1 million signatures to thank the roughly 1 million smokers for compliance with smoke-free rules. Due to that campaign, smokers were more willing to comply with “no smoking” signs, because they felt that those efforts were appreciated. This campaign went a long way toward assuring public acceptance of tobacco control measures.

 

To read more about smoke-free air in Uruguay, see our case study here>.

SWITZERLAND

Switzerland has been working toward smoke-free public places for many years. Because of the federal system in the country, local laws were passed long before the national law. Smoke-free legislation in Switzerland has been subjected to several legal challenges by tobacco companies. Due to the slow legislative process at the cantonal level, weak national legislation, and opposition from the tobacco industry, Switzerland as a whole has a substantial amount of work left to do. However, many cantons (a jurisdiction similar to a U.S. state) have made great strides towards protecting their citizens from the harms of secondhand smoke. Here are some the lessons learned from the fight for smoke-free air in Switzerland. Swiss Case study

  • Use the democratic system to your advantage
    • In Switzerland, as in many other countries, localities have the right to pass their own laws. By passing local smoke-free air laws, individual cantons drove the national government to create a federal law on the topic.
  • Once there is a model in a jurisdiction, target new jurisdictions that view themselves as similar
    • In a country with multiple jurisdictions, each jurisdiction views itself as more kindred with some neighbors than others. In the U.S., Nebraska is more likely to look to Kansas than to New York. In Switzerland, all of the French speaking cantons passed smoke-free air laws, based on a model from Geneva, another French-speaking canton.

 

To read more about smoke-free air in Switzerland, read the full case study here>.

To read more about tobacco control best practices around the world and how they can be implemented in the United States, please see ASH’s FCTC Implementation Guide>.

 

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Tobacco Demonstrates Troubles for Trade Agreements

In 2012, Australia implemented tough anti-tobacco regulations, requiring that all cigarettes be sold in plain, logo-free brown packages dominated by health warnings. Philip Morris Asia filed suit, claiming that this violated its intellectual-property rights and would damage its investments. The company sued Australia in domestic court and lost.

But it had another card to play. In 1993, Australia had signed a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong, where Philip Morris Asia is based. That agreement included provisions protecting foreign investors from unfair treatment. So the company sued under that deal, claiming that the new law violated the investor-protection provisions. It asked for the regulations to be discontinued, and for billions in compensation.

Read more>

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Australian plain packaging leads to dramatic declines in tobacco use

The tobacco industry has been hit by the heaviest declines on record amid otherwise strong economic growth for the nation, the latest figures show.

Treasurer Joe Hockey may have described the national accounts figures released Tuesday as a “terrific set of numbers”, but tobacco and cigarette consumption has taken a dramatic tumble, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Household tobacco consumption and expenditure volume fell 10.1 per cent over the past 12 months, and 17.5 per cent in the past two and a half years, according to the seasonally adjusted data.

Read more>

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Ukraine drops WTO action against Australian tobacco-packaging laws

(Reuters) – Ukraine has suspended a case it was pursuing through the World Trade Organization aimed at overturning Australia’s strict tobacco packaging laws, a WTO panel of adjudicators said in a statement published on Wednesday.

Ukraine asked the panel to suspend the proceedings on May 28 and said it will try to find a mutually agreed solution with Australia, the statement said.

Honduras, Cuba, Indonesia and Dominican Republic are also challenging Australia’s tobacco packaging laws at the WTO. There was no indication that their litigation would be affected.

A growing number of countries have said they plan to follow Australia’s 2010 step, banning flashy logos and distinctive-coloured cigarette packaging in favour of drab olive packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brand names printed in small standardised fonts.

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Tobacco & Human Rights in Latin America

An article written by ASH Staff Attorney Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy was recently published in the American Bar Association’s “International Law News.” The article discusses the growing problem of tobacco use in Latin American countries. journal 1

There are 145 million current smokers in Latin America, more than half of whom will die from smoking related causes. Many of the countries in Latin America have signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which implements best practices to effectively reduce tobacco use. Yet, many of these countries are failing to live up to the obligations of this treaty.

In failing to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco, countries are violating international human rights laws.

A suit could be filed within the Inter-American system on the basis of human rights violations, as a more concrete step to stop this epidemic. A suit filed in the Inter-American court, a regional human rights court, could be based on the violation of the right to health and could include violations of other rights such as the right to life, women’s rights and child rights. There are other options as well: an argument could be made that tobacco control laws do not provide equal protection for particularly vulnerable groups (for example, children).

A case in the Inter-American system would draw worldwide attention to tobacco as a human rights issue and could have a huge impact on the fight against tobacco in Latin America and around the world.

To read the entire article in ABA’s “International Law News”, click here>.

To read more about ASH’s work in criminal liability and potential human rights litigation, click here>

To read more about tobacco and human rights, click here>

If you have questions or would like more information please contact ASH Staff Attorney Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy at romeo-stuppyk@ash.org.

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Tobacco Companies Ordered to Pay $15B in Damages

Three tobacco companies have been ordered to pay $15 billion in damages after losing a historic court case.

Judge Brian Riordan on Monday ruled in favour of two groups representing Quebec smokers, ordering Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald to pay for punitive and moral damages.

“It’s a big day for victims of tobacco, who have been waiting for about 17 years for this decision. It was a long process — but arrived at the destination and it’s a big victory,” said Mario Bujold, executive director of the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health.

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