August 12, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Excellent in-depth story on how Big Tobacco working to protect value of trade agreements as a weapon against public health

Fair Warning, a news service run by Myron Levin, one of the country's top reporters on the tobacco industry, has a fine piece today, "Protest by Tobacco State Politicians, Business Groups May Snuff Out Obama Administration Trade Move," that describes how the tobacco companies are working through their usual allies and third parties to fight the anemic provision that the Administration floated last year to try and protect the FDA from tobacco companies using the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a way of fighting regulations on tobacco products. 

While the Administration never actually tabled a formal proposal, the general principles the US Trade Representative Office presented in a conference call I participated in was so narrowly focused (on "science-based regulations") that it would have provided no protection for state or local tobacco regulations and, in the end, perhaps not even the FDA.

The article also does a nice job of describing the longstanding relationships that the tobacco companies have with a string of US Trade Representatives that it can activate when needed.

In addition to the Fair Warning article, two other good background papers on how the Trans Pacific Partnership (and other agreements like the nascent Trans Atlantic Partnership) can become a powerful tool to protect Big Tobacco from sensible health regulation are the paper by Fooks and Gilmore recently published in Tobacco Control specifically on the TPP as well as our earlier paper (also in Tobacco Control) on how tobacco companies have used trademark claims to fight graphic warnings and plain packaging despite the fact that their own lawyers told them (repeatedly) that they did not have a case.

While continuing to press for a tobacco carve out (which the Fair Warning story describes), the health community around the Pacific Rim and  the world needs to start developing a consensus to oppose the TPP -- and any other trade agreement -- unless it clearly includes a tobacco carve out.  Absent that, we will be handing the tobacco companies an important weapon against the FCTC.

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