Last week, after many years of painful negotiation, the final text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement was released. This is the text that the U.S. Congress and Parliaments from 11 other countries will consider. At the moment, it is far from a slam dunk that it will pass into international law.
ASH and the tobacco control community breathed a sigh of relief to see that the expected partial exemption for tobacco, limiting corporate rights to sue governments over anti-tobacco measures, is included. This is a first in the history of trade law, a huge victory for public health, and a terrific outcome from nearly five years of work here at ASH. We congratulate our partners, both individuals and organizations, who joined us in this fight from nearly every TPP country.
Of course, this is not a perfect outcome. We sought more, and we will continue seeking more in future agreements. Please consider supporting ASH in this crucial fight by making a donation today. The Death Star has been destroyed, but Darth Vader (big tobacco) is still out there. With your help, we can ensure trade agreements support public health.
Below is a brief analysis of the TPP outcome as it relates to tobacco. There are still disconcerting aspects to the TPP for the future of tobacco control. But the tobacco industry views this outcome as a major defeat, and we will celebrate.
Right to elect for exemption: The exceptions chapter Article 29.5 gives Parties the right to deny the benefits of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism with respect to claims against tobacco control measures. The definition of “tobacco control measures” is robust, and includes alternative nicotine delivery devices (ANDs, often referred to as e-cigarettes). The language explicitly removes tobacco leaf from the exemption, i.e., trade in tobacco leaf is unaffected.
This falls well short of the full exemption for tobacco measures from the entire agreement proposed by Malaysia. However, it is a huge step forward for tobacco control from previous trade and investment agreements, and it is strong enough to invoke strong opposition from pro-tobacco industry politicians here in the U.S.
Aside from its application only to ISDS, the biggest weakness of the exemption is its status as an election for individual Parties. This leaves the door open to behind-the-scenes pressure by host governments, the tobacco industry and chambers of commerce to allow ISDS cases to proceed. Note that state-to-state disputes are not limited by this exemption.
Tariffs: Tobacco is treated like any other product in terms of tariff reduction. For the most part, this means that tobacco tariffs are reduced to zero, which produces a windfall of tobacco profits—unless there is a later compensating increase in domestic excise taxes. This explicit promotion of tobacco exports appears to violate the Doggett Amendment, a congressional limit on the authority of U.S. agencies to promote tobacco sales.
Other chapters: Tobacco is still treated like other products in the rest of the TPP, which signals that governments are still not recognizing that tobacco is unique in international trade (we want less, not more, and these same governments have agreed to this goal in the FCTC and other international instruments, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the NCD Summit).
The failure to approve the full exemption will have consequences for tobacco control. For example, the chapter on regulatory coherence requires Parties to set up mechanisms for “interested persons” to provide input into regulatory oversight. This creates a direct conflict of law with FCTC Article 5.3, which requires Parties (11 of whom are also TPP Parties) to limit government interaction with the tobacco industry.
ASH continues to lead a coalition supporting a full tobacco exemption in all trade agreements and BITs. This work will have huge benefits in the future if fully implemented.
ASH’s Tobacco Industry Monitoring (TIM) program works to track and publicize tobacco industry behavior. Our TIM program stems from Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which obligates national governments to prevent the tobacco industry from interfering in tobacco regulation.
The more light we can shine on big tobacco’s efforts to stop meaningful tobacco control, the less effective their efforts will be.
ASH is hard at work gathering data on where the industry makes its money, how it is spent, and the economic devastation left behind. Some highlights of our work in 2015 are:
– We published case studies that illustrate international lessons learned on smoke-free air laws in several countries (France, Uruguay, and Switzerland). These case studies are in support of our FCTC Implementation Guide.
– One of TIM’s biggest projects for the year was updating our campaign contributions map. Big Tobacco contributed almost $2 million to politicians in the 2014 elections, and our map shows how pervasive tobacco money is in politics. Check to see if your candidate took tobacco money in the last election, and look for the next iteration of our map, coming in 2016!
– ASH worked with our partners to expose the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a front group for Big Tobacco. Our work included a protest outside of the Chamber, where we showed up with Jeff the Diseased Lung!
– In response to PMI’s Marlboro campaign entitled “Don’t Be a Maybe”, we created similar “Don’t Be A Target” graphics and encouraged people to watch our video called “Don’t Be a Target”. We also participated in a flash mob outside of the Philip Morris shareholders meeting in order to draw attention to PMI’s marketing strategies.
– We also followed and shared news about tobacco control, the tobacco industry, and how they interfere in tobacco regulation, both in the United States and around the world. Read some of these articles here, here and here.
Check back next month to see the exciting things we have planned for the TIM Project in 2016!
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’.
To be clear: no it isn’t. And the WHO never said it was.
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.
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.
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 People, Time, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly. Read more here>.
Big tobacco has even capitalized on women’s rights movements and gender equality.
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.
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.
**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>.**
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Megan Arendt
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.”
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.
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.
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>.
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.
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>.
By Matt Romeo
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?