Former Surgeon General Criticizes Tobacco Exports Congress Is Beginning to Focus on Tobacco-Trade Issues with Thailand

By Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 23, 1990 | Go to article overview

Former Surgeon General Criticizes Tobacco Exports Congress Is Beginning to Focus on Tobacco-Trade Issues with Thailand


Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


IN Nairobi, the Safari Rally - an endurance car race - is now the Marlboro Rally. The manufacturer of Marlboro, Philip Morris, gets visibility and a flashy image in a fast-growing market.

Philip Morris is also one of the first United States investors in East Germany. Last week the company said it is buying a factory to produce 6.5 billion cigarettes a year.

And, the US tobacco companies have petitioned US Trade Representative Carla Hills to impose sanctions on Thailand unless the Asian country opens its markets to US brands.

Indeed, the overseas sales of cigarettes - always significant to the leading US and British companies - have become even more important as the market shrinks in the US.

The tobacco companies' heightened interest is also attracting the attention of public-health groups and Congress.

On Monday, C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general, told 9,800 people attending the World Conference on Lung Health that US tobacco exports rose 20 percent last year. "In 1989 American companies made 600 billion cigarettes; 100 billion of those cigarettes went overseas, over half to the far east," Mr. Koop said.

Indeed, during a day-long program, public-health experts from around the world predicted a global epidemic from smoking-related deaths as a result of this surge in overseas sales. Judith Mackay, a doctor and director of the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control in Hong Kong, predicted 12 million people will die annually from smoking by the year 2050. Medical experts estimate about 2.5 million people currently die from smoking-related illnesses.

Because of the huge growth of cigarettes sales abroad, the US Congress has started to focus on the issue. Two weeks ago, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts held hearings on the export of US cigarettes.

On May 17, the subcommittee on Health and the Environment, chaired by Rep. …

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