Saturday, December 14, 2013

Supporting the cancer dealers

People who don't smoke, don't buy tobacco. As developed nations created more highly regulated systems for the control, advertisement, and sale of tobacco, the industry found itself focused on expanding its business in less-developed nations where education on the dangers of tobacco were less advanced and government restrictions were short of those found in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and other countries. Tobacco consumption more than doubled in the developing world from 1970 to 2000, according to the United Nations. Much of the increase was in China, but there has also been substantial growth in Africa, where smoking rates have traditionally been low. More than three-quarters of the world’s smokers now live in the developing world.

The large tobacco corporations—citing international trade agreements and various treaties—are using their financial and legal muscle to intimidate governments from adopting those stricter regulatory steps. The current wording in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP) free trade deal would not stop countries from being sued when they adopt strong tobacco control measures, though some trade experts said it might make the companies less likely to win. Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the W.H.O., said in a speech last year that legal actions against Uruguay, Norway and Australia were “deliberately designed to instill fear” in countries trying to reduce smoking. “The wolf is no longer in sheep’s clothing, and its teeth are bared,” she said.

What critics say it comes down to, at least for the tobacco companies, is being able to push their extremely health-adverse product on unwitting consumers by strong-arming the governments who try to legislate stronger consumer protections or industry standards.

In Africa, at least four countries — Namibia, Gabon, Togo and Uganda — have received warnings from the tobacco industry that their laws run afoul of international treaties, said Patricia Lambert, director of the international legal consortium at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

“They’re trying to intimidate everybody,” said Jonathan Liberman, director of the McCabe Center for Law and Cancer in Australia, which gives legal support to countries that have been challenged by tobacco companies. In Namibia, the tobacco industry has said that requiring large warning labels on cigarette packages violates its intellectual property rights and could fuel counterfeiting.

According to the Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH), the US government—though it helped expose the health dangers of tobacco use in the 1990's—is now setting the stage for tobacco companies to exploit trade policy agreements like the TPP as a way to exploit consumer markets overseas in a way that could deeply harm public health in foreign countries.
"U.S. proposals for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would threaten global efforts at tobacco control by enhancing the tobacco industry's ability to undermine tobacco regulation through litigation," the group said in a statement. "The only genuine solution would be to carve out (meaning to remove) tobacco control laws and regulations from trade agreements," the CPATH statement continued.  Malaysia, one of the 12 nations party to the TPP talks, has advanced a proposal that would complement the language enshrined in the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control—to which all TPP countries are signatories—the U.S. Trade Representative, according to the CPATH, "has not agreed, nor exercised leadership towards a viable resolution."

Slammed broadly for its deference to corporate interests while undermining labor, environmental, and consumer protections, the TPP talks are broadly under fire for the secrecy under which they have taken place. In the U.S., the Obama administration has been roundly criticized for trying to get "fast track" authority for the deal, which means that Congress will only have an opportunity to vote up or down on a final draft of the agreement without offering changes or amendments.

Taken from here

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