TOBACCO IS A UNIQUE PRODUCT.
International trade treaties are meant to increase wealth for all and foster development across the globe. The result, ideally, is increased consumption, lower prices, and increased production. These goals are commendable for wheat, clothing and toasters. However, when it comes to tobacco, international trade liberalization is harmful. From a public health perspective, greater tobacco consumption means greater death and disease, and all the societal costs that come with it.
THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY ABUSES THE TRADE LEGAL SYSTEM.
As the world has moved against tobacco through advertising bans, smokefree laws and graphic warning labels, the tobacco industry has increasingly turned to international trade treaties to fight back. Tobacco has been the most litigated product in the World Trade Organization during the past few years. Recently, the United States lost a case to Indonesia over a ban on flavorings targeted at children.
The industry track record in trade disputes over tobacco regulation is fairly dismal. So why do they do it? Because winning is not the only definition of victory. By forcing governments to spend millions defending their tobacco regulations, the industry discourages other governments from further action against tobacco consumption. Win or lose, many governments simply can’t afford to defend every tobacco measure in court.
SO, WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
Since the industry strategy is to file even flimsy lawsuits in order to punish governments for seeking to reduce tobacco consumption, tobacco measures should be explicitly exempted from trade treaties.
THE ANSWER: TOBACCO SHOULD BE CARVED-OUT OF TRADE AND INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS
“We hereby recommend that, by 2015, public health protection clauses be included in all new or re-negotiated trade and investment agreements and treaties. Tobacco to be explicitly excluded from such agreements and treaties.” – Declaration of the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health Declaration, Singapore, 20 – 24 March 2012.
Drawing the line
TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)
The U.S. and eight other countries are currently negotiating a huge free trade agreement that has been described as “NAFTA on steroids”. The draft includes language allowing tobacco companies to directly sue governments over tobacco regulations. Learn more about the threat and opportunity of the TPPA