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

By Manjari Peiris

The negotiations of Trans-Pacific Partnerships (TPP) are 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 a shame that tobacco companies are hiding behind tobacco growers to disguise their own wrongful and abusive behavior, states Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The proposed TPP provision is focused on preventing tobacco manufacturers’ abuse of the international trade system. It addresses the actions of cigarette manufacturers and not growers, and would not impact trade of tobacco leaf, in any way.

The United States and the 11 other countries involved must ensure that 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.

Since the tobacco industry behave in abusive manner using trade and investment agreements to challenge tobacco control measures around the world, it is absolutely necessary that the TPP include this safeguard.

Tobacco products are the only consumer products that kill when used as intended. Currently tobacco kills about six million people each year in the world. It is projected to kill one billion people in this century, if not governments implement effective tobacco control policies. There is a global compromise that nations must act to reduce tobacco use as demonstrated by an international public health treaty – The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organization. Up to now 180 countries and the European Union have ratified this treaty.

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 tobacco industry has filed or threatened to file costly trade lawsuits, with the aim of defeating effective tobacco control measures or intimidating government into inaction. These cases undermine the sovereignty of nations and their right to protect the health of their citizens.

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 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.

– Asian Tribune

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