Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Must Protect Nations’ Right to Enact Measures to Reduce Tobacco Use

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

TPP map
The nations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (credit)

As they complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, the United States and the 11 other countries involved must ensure the final agreement protects the right of participating nations to adopt public health measures to reduce tobacco use and prevents tobacco companies from using the TPP to attack such measures.

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It is absolutely necessary that the TPP include this safeguard because of the tobacco industry’s own abusive behavior in using trade and investment agreements to challenge tobacco control measures around the world.

With TPP negotiations in the final stages this week in Maui, the tobacco industry and its political allies have stepped up their fight against any safeguard for tobacco control measures by claiming it would harm tobacco farmers. It is truly shameful that tobacco companies are hiding behind tobacco growers to disguise their own wrongful and abusive behavior. The proposed TPP provision is focused on preventing tobacco manufacturers’ abuse of the international trade system, addresses the actions of cigarette manufacturers and not growers, and would not impact trade of tobacco leaf in any way.

The proposed safeguard for tobacco control measures is necessary and appropriate given the abusive conduct of the tobacco industry and the uniquely harmful nature of tobacco products. Tobacco products are the only consumer products that kill when used as intended. Globally, tobacco currently kills about six million people each year and is projected to kill one billion people this century unless governments implement effective tobacco control policies. There is a global consensus that nations must act to reduce tobacco use as demonstrated by an international public health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been ratified by 179 nations and the European Union.

The TPP must protect public health measures relating to tobacco from being challenged under the agreement, specifically under a legal mechanism called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) that allows foreign companies to sue governments in international trade tribunals. The industry increasingly has filed – or threatened to file – these costly trade lawsuits (PDF) with the aim of defeating effective tobacco control measures or intimidating government into inaction. Australia and Uruguay are currently battling such lawsuits, and other countries have faced or been threatened with them. The tobacco industry’s behavior is a real and direct threat to public health around the world, and it must be stopped.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has joined dozens of public health groups (PDF) in the U.S. and worldwide, as well as many members of Congress, in urging that tobacco control measures be protected under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The United States and other countries involved must act to protect children and health around the world rather than the interests of the tobacco industry.

Note: According to the New York Times, the Maui talks failed to reach an agreement on TPP and will now need to resume at a future date.

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