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Smoked meat is NOT as dangerous as smoked tobacco

Most regular readers of the ASH blog will have heard the news from the World Health Organization (WHO) that smoked and preserved meats are now known carcinogens. Far too many news outlets, eager to sensationalize, have announced this news with headlines such as: Bacon, ham and sausages ‘as big a cancer threat as smoking’.[1]

To be clear: no it isn’t. And the WHO never said it was. Bacon

The confusion stems from the way WHO categorizes cancer risks. Products or behaviors that have a clear link to cancer are all placed into the same category, a category that includes asbestos and tobacco. There are five categories in all, but saying that because tobacco and meat are in the same “quintile” means that they are equally dangerous is like saying that anybody in the top fifth of wage earners (roughly an income of over $200,000 a year) is as rich as Bill Gates.

So to set the record straight…

One serving of bacon a day raises your risk of certain cancers by 18%

Three cigarettes a day raise your risk of lung cancer by 500%

So please, if you decide that your love of bacon makes the slight increase in cancer risk worth it, don’t come to the same conclusion about tobacco. Tobacco kills about half of its long term users.

Eating sausage is like driving slightly over the speed limit. Smoking cigarettes is like playing Russian roulette with half the chambers loaded.

 

[1] The Telegraph, Oct. 23, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11950018/Bacon-ham-and-sausages-as-big-a-cancer-threat-as-smoking-WHO-to-warn.html

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American Pediatrics say to raise the legal min age for tobacco to 21

In a comprehensive set of policies issued during its National Conference & Exhibition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) presents extensive recommendations to protect our nation’s youth from the pernicious effects of tobacco and nicotine.

The AAP now strongly recommends the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should be increased to age 21 nationwide.

Read on>

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Call the White House: Tues, Oct 27

Take action! 

Call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 on Tuesday, October 27th and ask President Obama to stand up for our kids and public health by giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, and hookah. TFK - Deeming Day of Action

 

Talking Points

– I’m calling today to ask President Obama to finalize regulations to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to protect our kids and the public health from e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah.

– Over 2 million kids are now using e-cigarettes, 1.4 million kids are smoking cigars and 1.6 million smoke hookah.  There is NO federal oversight of these products and the companies are using candy and fruit-flavored products to target kids.  It is past time to close the e-cigarette and cigar loophole.

– [Insert a brief personal story on why this is important to you.  It might be that you don’t want your kids to use tobacco products, that you are or were a smoker, or you just want to protect our nation’s health.]

– Thank you. I hope we can count on the President to protect our kids from all tobacco products.

You can also tweet @WhiteHouse using #NoTobacco4Kids.

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Michael Bloomberg says big tobacco preys on the world’s poor

Bloomberg said: “Someday somebodies going to come along and say to the people who are running these companies, you are killing people. If you kill somebody on the streets with a gun or beat them over the head, we put you in jail or worse.

“These people [tobacco companies] deliberately go out every day and try to kill, for their own profits, the poor around the world. A billion people will still die from smoking this century.”

Read full article>

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International Day of the Girl

In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges that girls face around the world. Girls and women around the world face challenges unique to their gender- discrimination, violence, education disparities- but one issue that is often forgotten is tobacco.

Approximately 176 million adult women worldwide are daily smokers. In the U.S., 17.7 million females over the age of 15 are daily smokers, and 8.5% of girls in the U.S. age 15-19 smoke. Read more here>.

Big tobacco specifically targets women and girls with advertising that attempts to show smoking as glamorous and to portray smokers as independent, successful, and thin. Women often smoke or continue smoking in order to lose or control weight. Big Tobacco is well aware of this and many companies have had advertising campaigns focused on weight.

*Lucky Strike, 1929

*Lucky Strike, 1929

*Silva Thins, 1972

*Silva Thins, 1972

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertising that targets women and girls often highlights smoking as glamorous, sophisticated, or sexy, all of which are particularly attractive to teenagers. Obviously, what is considered sexy or cool has changed dramatically over time, but tobacco companies have kept up with the trends, as a way to attract younger consumers. These ads are often found in magazines, many with youth readership like PeopleTimeRolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly. Read more here>.

 *Lucky Strike, 1932

*Lucky Strike, 1932

*Brown and Williamson, 1993

*Brown and Williamson, 1993

*German Advertisement, Philip Morris International, 2012

*German Advertisement, Philip Morris International, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big tobacco has even capitalized on women’s rights movements and gender equality.

*Philip Morris, 1951

*Philip Morris, 1951

*Philip Morris, 1995

*Philip Morris, 1995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tobacco companies go beyond just ads in an attempt to target girls. Many products, packaging, and flavors are designed to lure in female smokers, often in shades of pink. Big tobacco also sponsors parties and giveaways.

*Photo- Tobacco21.org, RJ Reynolds, present

*Photo- Tobacco21.org, RJ Reynolds, present

*R.J. Reynolds, 2004

*R.J. Reynolds, 2004

*Nat Sherman, present

*Nat Sherman, present

 

Tobacco advertising campaigns are targeted at girls early and often, at the cash register, in magazines, and at parties. To see more about tobacco advertising, watch our video Don’t Be A Target. Each year, more than 200,000 women in the U.S. and 1.5 million women around the world die from tobacco related diseases. This year on International Day of the Girl, be sure to think, talk, and tweet about how damaging tobacco and tobacco advertising are to women and girls.

Talk about this problem on twitter with #dayofthegirl and make sure to tag @AshOrg!

 

**Unless otherwise cited, the photos are courtesy of Stanford School of Medicine Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising. Please see their excellent resources, available here>.**

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Breaking: Tobacco Carve-Out in TPP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Megan Arendt

Office: 202-659-4310

Email: arendtm@ash.org

Tobacco Carve-Out in TPP, Major Victory for Public Health

Removes New Weapon for Tobacco Industry

WASHINGTON, DC – Monday, October 5, 2015 – In a major victory for public health, negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement concluded this morning with built-in protections to prevent private corporations from suing governments over anti-tobacco regulations. The victory comes after years of pressure from a vast coalition of health groups and pro-health legislators, including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), to protect the right of governments to regulate tobacco without fear of expensive lawsuits. The tobacco industry, along with its allies in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups, fought hard to ensure that overseas marketing of tobacco products – the only consumer product to kill when used as intended – could continue unabated.

“We would have preferred a blanket exemption for tobacco in the Agreement, denying increased rights for the tobacco industry across the board,” said Laurent Huber, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health. “However, ISDS was the most worrisome aspect of the TPP, and now the tobacco industry cannot use it to block or delay life-saving measures.” Malaysia proposed just such a full carve-out for tobacco, but ultimately could not achieve full consensus.

The carve-out represents a sea change in the U.S. stance on tobacco and trade. When TPP negotiations began in 2008, the office of the United States Trade Representative insisted that no product should be singled out for special treatment, whatever the damage to the public. Under pressure from health groups, the U.S. offered a so-called “safe harbor” proposal in 2012, which paid lip service to the unique nature of tobacco but did little to legally protect regulations from trade lawsuits. A year later, U.S. negotiators backed away from even this small step after a concerted campaign by the Chamber of Commerce and pro-tobacco legislators.

Last week in the final round of negotiations, the U.S. formally proposed an exemption in the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism for tobacco products, effectively blocking the tobacco industry from launching trade disputes under the TPP. The proposal was agreed to by the other 11 countries.

The TPP, if ratified by the twelve nations involved, will become the world’s largest free trade agreement, incorporating about 40% of the global economy. Once submitted, the U.S. Congress will have 90 days to consider the Agreement. Earlier this year, Congress granted the Obama Administration Trade Promotion Authority, or “fast-track,” which means that Congress cannot offer amendments but must vote the Agreement up or down. A small number of pro-tobacco legislators have vowed to try to kill the Agreement over the tobacco carve-out.

The tobacco industry has a long history of using costly litigation to inspire “regulatory chill,” or a fear among governments that enacting tobacco control measures will be too expensive to defend. As ISDS mechanisms in trade and investment agreements have multiplied, Big Tobacco has become an eager user. One of the Parties to the TPP, Australia, is in the midst of an ISDS challenge launched by Philip Morris International over its implementation of plain packaging for tobacco products. Several other countries have held off on plain packaging due to the likely legal costs. The TPP is the first major trade agreement to carve-out protections for tobacco measures.

In spite of a global treaty to address tobacco – the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – trade ministries have continued to treat tobacco products like any other commodity, working to increase consumption while health ministries have struggled in the opposite direction.

“We can’t end the tobacco epidemic unless we’re all rowing in the same direction,” said Alfred Munzer, Chair of Action on Smoking and Health. “The language in the TPP is a stroke in the right direction.”

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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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Push grows to target tobacco, health in Pacific trade rules

No final consensus has been reached on whether any exclusion would target only tobacco companies or shield a wider range of government regulations from legal action, but Australia’s Andrew Robb is optimistic about his country’s push for a broad carve-out for both health and environmental regulations.

“I think we’re on track, but there’s not a final decision yet,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the Atlanta meetings.

Similar rules in a separate trade treaty allowed Marlboro maker Philip Morris to sue Australia over tobacco plain-packaging laws banning branded cigarette packs.

Read more>

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UN Officially Recognizes that Tobacco Makes the World Poorer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Megan Arendt

Office: 202-659-4310

Email: arendtm@ash.org

UN Officially Recognizes that Tobacco Makes the World Poorer

Sustainable Development Goals Adopted at UN Summit

NEW YORK, NY – Friday, September 25, 2015 – Today, the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a plan to eradicate global poverty. The goals formally recognize, on a global scale, the negative impact of tobacco consumption on health, wealth, and development and commit member governments to combat the ongoing tobacco epidemic, especially through the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC is the first global health treaty; its objective “is to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

“It is our hope that the SDGs will raise the profile of the FCTC and provide desperately needed resources for poor countries to fully implement it,” said Laurent Huber, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a DC-based health organization.

ASH is pleased to have worked at the center of the campaign at the UN that resulted in the integration of tobacco control in the SDGs. This collaborative work with our international partners convinced the global community of the necessity of elevating the tobacco epidemic as a development priority.

The SDGs are a 15-year plan to reduce poverty across the globe. They follow on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000 and sunsetting at the end of 2015. But the SDGs are not simply a continuation of the MDGs. UN Summit 2

Key differences include:

– The new recognition of the growing impact of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on health and poverty, especially in low and middle income countries. Tobacco is the leading risk factor for NCDs.

– The SDGs apply to all UN members, including high income countries like the U.S. While Americans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, there are still pockets of poverty among several socio-economic groups. This disparity is especially true for tobacco use, which is increasingly becoming a disease of the poor in the U.S.

“We have made important progress in combatting tobacco in the 50+ years since the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General’s report made the first official connection between tobacco and disease clear,” said Dr. Alfred Munzer, chair of ASH. “However, tobacco still costs over half a million lives and over $300 billion a year, just in America. The global toll of 6 million lives is staggering. This is unacceptable.” Dr. Munzer, a pulmonologist, has been advocating against tobacco use for more than 40 years and is a past president of the American Lung Association.

The World Health Organization estimates that, unless urgent action is taken, tobacco will cost one billion lives this century.

The SDGs serve as a roadmap for global development, including international assistance. The inclusion of tobacco and the FCTC was a victory for public health groups over the interests of the tobacco industry, who lobbied hard to keep tobacco out of the final agreement. The FCTC has been ratified by 179 countries, but while its measures have been identified as low cost, “best buy” policies by the WHO, its implementation has been mixed, partially due to a lack of resources.

One ready source of funds for tobacco control and development is tobacco taxation, the most proven method to reduce tobacco use. “Only a small portion of the money raised through higher tobacco taxes would be needed for implementation of tobacco control measures,” added Mr. Huber. “The rest could be available for other development needs. And society would be further rewarded with lower health care costs in the future. This is a triple win.” This strategy was confirmed by a parallel UN negotiation meeting called “Funding for Development,” which highlighted tobacco taxes as an ideal source of development resources.

The SDGs will come into force on January 1, 2016. Individual targets to track implementation and success are still in draft form, but include the reduction of prevalence of tobacco use. Several U.S. states fall short of that goal and have work to do over the next 15 years.

 

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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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What does peanut butter have to do with tobacco?

Recently, a landmark case was decided in federal court in Georgia. The subject of the case? Peanut butter.

The Peanut Butter Case: United States of America vs. Stewart Parnell

From 2008-2009, there was an outbreak of salmonella infections in the U.S., an epidemic eventually linked to contaminated peanut butter. As many as 20,000 people may have been sickened, and 9 people were killed.

In January of 2009, a peanut butter company called PCA ceased production and shipments, and recalls were issued. The recalls were not only for peanut butter packaged by PCA. More than 200 companies recalled a total of 3,918 products which included PCA peanut butter or peanut paste as an ingredient. It is likely the most expensive recall over a single ingredient in U.S. history. peanut corp

Rodent droppings, dead insects, a leaking roof, and broken roasting equipment were found to be behind the contaminated peanut butter. Fraud was also rampant. PCA and its executives were so concerned with sales that they put, in writing, instructions to employees to ignore safety.

The case has been making its way through the court system, with both civil litigation and a criminal case. In July of this year, the U.S. Probation Office recommended a life sentence for Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of PCA, following his multiple felony conviction for “knowingly selling tainted peanut butter” that ended up killing nine people. In addition to imprisonment, PCA is facing a $11.2 million dollar fine. On September 21, 2015, Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison, the harshest penalty on record related to food-borne illness. Read more about the case here> and here>.

But what does this case have to do with tobacco?

Based on research ASH has undertaken, criminal charges could be filed against tobacco corporations and executives, just like the peanut butter corporation. ASH has been investigating this possibility, particularly concentrating on the charges of manslaughter and/or criminally negligent homicide, because of the deaths caused by tobacco use.

How is this case similar?

  • Both tobacco corporations and PCA “knowingly distributed” a potentially toxic product
  • Both PCA and tobacco corporations continued to manufacture and sell products they knew to be dangerous.
  • People died from these products
    • Although you could also call this a big difference – 9 people died from salmonella tainted peanut butter; the death count for tobacco might reach 1 billion in the 21st
  • Some of the criminal charges would be similar; for example, conspiracy and fraud.

How is this case different?

  • The PCA peanut butter was under FDA jurisdiction and therefore the criminal charges came under an FDA act (the Food Safety Modernization Act) instead of state or federal criminal law.
  • The peanut butter case did not include charges for manslaughter, which tobacco executives could likely be charged with.
  • As stated above, the damage done by tobacco is on a much broader scale.

 

Despite some differences, much about the peanut butter case rings true with tobacco as well. As Peter Hurley, a Portland, Oregon police officer and the father of a child who got Salmonella poisoning from Parnell peanut paste, told Congress: “If someone is convicted of a felony in the criminal justice system, they go to prison and are not allowed to vote. But, if you poison Americans via their food supply what are the consequences? You pay a fine and keep producing? Is this right? Is this what we as Americans want?” Read more here>.

It isn’t right, and Americans should demand justice in all cases where corporations that knowingly sell deadly products, especially for big tobacco.

If you are interested in reading more about potential criminal liability for tobacco executives, read more on ASH’s website here>.

 

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The experiences of an ASH intern (Part 2)

Guest Blog: Continued from Here

By Matt Romeo

Communications

As part of the communications aspect of my internship, I got to dress-up as “Jeff the Diseased Lung” from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to protest the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s relationship with Big Tobacco. I never imagined that I would dress up in a character suit and join in a rally this summer. I had a lot of fun dressing up as Jeff, but I also learned something from it. In order for a non-profit to be successful, it needs to come up with creative ideas in order to attract the attention of the public and get their message out.

By dressing as Jeff the Diseased Lung and going to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ASH and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) attracted the attention of hundreds of people who otherwise would have been ignorant to the Chamber’s role in blocking tobacco control legislation. Even though some of the bystanders did not fully understand all of the policy issues, at least they were reminded of the fact that smoking is bad for your health.

Creative campaigns like the Smoking Hot campaign or Jeff the Diseased Lung promote a non-profit’s cause by connecting with the general public in terms they understand. An effective and creative communications department plays a key role in the success of a non-profit.

Meetings and Presentations

In the second week of my internship, I had the privilege of attending a presentation by ASH’s Executive Director, Laurent Huber, and several other panel members at the Pan-American Health Organization Headquarters (PAHO), through the Global Tobacco Control Leadership Program at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The program focuses on how organizations around the globe can influence public policy makers and challenge interest groups that support the tobacco industry.

Since this was early on in my internship, I found a lot of the information quite complex for me to understand; however, I did take away one very important thing from the presentation. The fight against the tobacco industry truly is a unified global effort. There were representatives for organizations from Europe, Asia and North America, all expressing the same concerns about the damage done by the tobacco industry. All of them left with valuable knowledge to make a united effort against tobacco around the world.

I also got to observe some of ASH’s “strategic planning” for the next several years. The one overarching theme seemed to be that non-profits need to have a very clear and well thought-out plan for their future. In addition, I got to sit in on the weekly staff meetings at ASH. Like the strategic planning sessions, this is where the direction of the organization is determined, only on a smaller scale. Each staff member is given an opportunity to present on updates for their program, and then the staff talks about if they are headed in the direction they would like to be headed in.

NGOs have to ensure that each decision they make is cost-effective and worth the limited amount of time each staff member has. I thoroughly enjoyed attending these meetings, because it gave me a good insight into the direction of the organization. I learned a lot from attending meetings and presentations this summer.  I left each meeting in awe of what people could achieve in just one short week and inspired to work harder.

Conclusion

What did I do this summer?  I had the opportunity to learn about how a non-profit organization works through research, communications and attending meetings, all while serving the fight against Big Tobacco. I was able to develop a college campus divestment tool kit and comprehend all that goes into anti-tobacco work.

Best of all, I was able to learn and grow throughout my summer at ASH, thanks to a supportive and highly motivated staff. I had a great experience with ASH this summer, and as I go back to school, I will continue to stand with health and support ASH’s great work.

 

Read Part 1

 

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Big Trade Agreements … Big Tobacco

By Chris Bostic, for Health and Trade Network

As the role of tobacco companies in trade agreements on both sides of the Atlantic has been highlighted by a series of controversial events in recent weeks, this HaT paper is presented as a summary of the current key issues in the TPP and the TTIP, with implications for tobacco industry influence over trade agreements in general.

While it is clear that tobacco is an exceptionally deadly product, deserving of its own global convention and strong regulation, the influence of the tobacco industry from leaf growers to ‘big tobacco’ on trade agreements remains incredibly strong. 

Read on>

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Tobacco consumption plunges in Australia: plain packaging

The latest ABS National Accounts figures show tobacco consumption fell a further 2.2 per cent in the June quarter.

Tobacco consumption has now plunged 13 per cent over the past 12 months, and a staggering 19.6 per cent in the almost three years since Labor’s plain packaging laws came into effect.

Read on>

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New study links e-cig use in teens to smoking initiation

Importance  Exposure to nicotine in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is becoming increasingly common among adolescents who report never having smoked combustible tobacco.

Objective  To evaluate whether e-cigarette use among 14-year-old adolescents who have never tried combustible tobacco is associated with risk of initiating use of 3 combustible tobacco products (ie, cigarettes, cigars, and hookah).

Read on>

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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.

Read on to Part 2>

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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.”
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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