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Tobacco Giants Say They Shouldn’t Be Singled Out under Trans-Pacific Partnership – Why Not When Their Products Kill 6 Million a Year–why-not-when-their-products-kill-6-million-a-year-300157274.html

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is a statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

It is absurd that tobacco giants Philip Morris International and Altria are complaining the tobacco industry is being “singled out” because the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement prevents them from using the TPP to attack life-saving measures to reduce tobacco use.

Tobacco products SHOULD be treated differently. They are uniquely lethal and kill when used as intended, and the tobacco industry is the poster child for abuse of the world trade system. How shameless of tobacco companies to play the victim when the real victims are the six million people their products kill worldwide each year.

It is not surprising for tobacco companies to say and do anything to sell more cigarettes despite the fact they kill millions every year. The question now is this: Will members of Congress stand for the right of governments, including our own government, to protect the health of their citizens from tobacco, or will they stand with the tobacco companies and help them spread death and disease around the world? Congress should reject the tobacco industry’s disingenuous arguments and support this landmark provision in the TPP that protects nations’ authority to enact tobacco control measures.

This safeguard for tobacco control measures is necessary 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 is projected to kill one billion people this century unless governments implement effective tobacco control policies. There is a unique global consensus that nations must act 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 tobacco industry has fought back by filing – or threatening to file – costly trade lawsuits with the aim of defeating effective tobacco control measures or intimidating government into inaction. Australia and Uruguay are currently battling such lawsuits filed by Philip Morris International, and as reported by The New York Times, many other countries have been threatened with them. The huge costs of these lawsuits have discouraged nations from taking life-saving action.

In its statement on the TPP, Philip Morris International complains that these cases do not justify protecting tobacco control measures under the TPP and doing so would result in “a diminished rule of law.” In reality, it is Philip Morris’s own trade lawsuits that have diminished the rule of law and been viewed as so abusive that countries made it a priority to protect tobacco control measures under the TPP.

The tobacco industry and its political allies also claim this provision would harm tobacco farmers. Make no mistake: This provision would not impact trade of tobacco leaf in any way and includes language specifically exempting tobacco leaf. It is focused on preventing tobacco manufacturers’ abuse of the international trade system and addresses the actions of these manufacturers, not growers. Tobacco companies must not be allowed to hide behind tobacco growers to disguise their own wrongful behavior.

The tobacco industry’s abuse of trade agreements is a real and direct threat to public health around the world, and it must be stopped. It is the tobacco manufacturers’ own behavior that has created a broad consensus that they must not be allowed to threaten countries that act to protect their citizens from tobacco.

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