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Statement of the United States on Menthol

Statement of the United States on Menthol for the WTO Dispute Settlement Body on July 23, 2013

  • The United States provided a status report in this dispute on July 11, 2013, in accordance with Article 21.6 of the DSU.
  • As the United States has reported to the DSB, U.S. authorities have conferred with interested parties and have worked to implement the recommendations and rulings of the DSB in a manner that is appropriate from the perspective of public health.
  • The United States recalls that in this dispute the DSB found that the challenged U.S. measure reflects the overwhelming view of the scientific community that banning clove and other flavored cigarettes benefits the public health by reducing the likelihood that youth will enter into a lifetime of cigarette addiction. At the same time, the DSB also found that the U.S. measure provided less favorable treatment to clove cigarettes imported from Indonesia than to menthol cigarettes that were made in the United States.
  • To come into compliance with the DSB’s recommendations and rulings, the United States has taken and is taking a number of actions in relation to menthol cigarettes. Today, the United States is announcing several actions by U.S. health authorities.
  • First, the U.S. Food And Drug Administration is publishing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making concerning menthol cigarettes. The Notice initiates a process to receive public comment on potential regulatory options that the Food and Drug Administration might consider and seeks additional information. The Notice will be published in the U.S. Federal Register.
  • Second, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is releasing its Preliminary Scientific Evaluation on the Possible Public Health Effects of Menthol Versus Nonmenthol Cigarettes. The Preliminary Scientific Evaluation addresses the association between menthol cigarettes and various outcomes, including initiation, addiction, and cessation. The Preliminary Evaluation includes a finding that the presence of menthol in cigarettes negatively affects cessation and attempts of smokers to quit smoking. The Preliminary Evaluation will be available for public comment.
  • Third, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is announcing the development of a youth education campaign that is designed to prevent and reduce demand for tobacco products and menthol cigarettes.
  • Fourth, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be sharing information through the U.S. online hub for tobacco information and cessation tools, called BeTobaccoFree.gov, which was initially launched in November 2012. This online hub will provide information on the health risks posed by menthol cigarettes to raise awareness of those risks.
  • Fifth, the National Cancer Institute will be educating the public on the health risks posed by menthol cigarettes through its website designed to help persons quit smoking, which is SmokeFree.gov.
  • The health risks posed by using tobacco are well-documented, and the public health challenges posed by menthol cigarettes in particular are significant. In the United States, approximately 30 percent of adult smokers and 40 percent of all youth smokers report smoking menthol cigarettes. Raising awareness and educating about the health risks of tobacco can be a very important means to discourage its use.
  • In light of the significant health challenges posed by menthol cigarettes, these actions by U.S. health authorities bring the United States into compliance with the DSB’s recommendations and rulings in this dispute within the reasonable period of time for compliance, which expires on July 24.
  • We look forward to continuing to confer with Indonesia regarding these compliance actions. Bilateral meetings are being arranged to answer any questions Indonesia may have.

Second Intervention:

  • I would just note that our statement today was quite clear in that we have taken measures to come into compliance and we are happy to provide Indonesia with more information. In light of that, our view is that we will not need to revert to this item.
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