Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

End Government Support of US Tobacco Abroad

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

End Government Support of US Tobacco Abroad

Article excerpt

SURGEON General Antonia C. Novello and the Pan American Health Organization warn of vastly more smoking-related diseases in the Americas. Meanwhile, as smoking in the United States decreases, the tobacco industry is pushing hard on sales overseas.

Supported by the US Departments of State and Commerce and the US Trade Representative (USTR), the tobacco sector is fiercely lobbying here and abroad to maintain or secure new markets. In a battle that pits health concerns against profit, it is appalling for US officials to defend tobacco-industry interests.

In Taiwan, the tobacco lobby counted on invervention by USTR Carla Hills to undermine legislation to prevent and control the damage caused by cigarette smoking. In Turkey, US officials managed to develop the tobacco-manufacturing industry so that more US tobacco can be exported. US tobacco firms (reportedly with government assistance) have persistently lobbied European parliamentarians to kill a plan to ban tobacco advertisements in media and on billboards and banish tobacco brand names from the world of sport and sponsorship.

The example of Taiwan is particularly embarrassing. US trade officials pressured Taiwan not to adopt the ambitious law that includes restriction on smoking in public, a ban on cigarette sales through vending machines, an aggressive public-education campaign, and a complete ban on advertising and promotion. The excuse for the US policy is a 1986 Taiwanese promise to liberalize its market to foreign competition. At the time the promise constituted a major trade breakthrough. Now US officials allege that by adopting the "Law Governing the Prevention and Control of Damage from Tobacco Use," Taiwan would be breaking its promise of market liberalization. Ironically, the US "free-marketeer" policy de facto supports an already heavily subsidized industry.

In the US, the tobacco lobby is fighting hard to destroy two bills introduced by US Rep. Chet Atkins (D) of Massachusetts, which could seriously undercut tobacco profits overseas: the Cigarette Export Reform Act and the Cigarette Export Labeling Act. The first bill would bar any federal agency from coercing other countries into relaxing cigarette and tobacco laws in order to help American brands. …

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