Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Allow protection of national tobacco regulations from the tobacco industry
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade pact intended to lower tariffs and other obstacles to commerce, is currently under negotiations that could lead to an enormous public health mistake. Although the agreement contained a “safe harbor” clause in earlier drafts that protected nation’s sovereignty regarding tobacco regulations, the Obama administration recently responded to pressure from Big Tobacco to throw out the provision. Omitting the clause leaves governments’ tobacco control laws vulnerable to interference from the tobacco industry regarding issues such as marketing restrictions, advertising, and package warnings, which could cost millions of deaths worldwide.
In recent years, the tobacco industry has been using trade and investment agreements to challenge domestic tobacco control measures with the goal of overturning them and ultimately discouraging governments from enacting them altogether. Laws already in place in some nations, such as those requiring graphic health warnings, prohibiting fruit and candy flavored cigarettes, and other measures aimed at reducing smoking rates, will be under attack without the safe harbor provision protecting them. Some of these measures have been proven to reduce smoking rates by up to fifty percent. This provision has the potential to prevent tens of millions of deaths worldwide.
Instead of the safe harbor clause, the Obama administration is pushing for a clause that has much weaker language regarding a nation’s authority to enact health safety measures and would not protect against lawsuits filed by the tobacco industry. Without that protection, susceptibility to Big Tobacco is inevitable, and will end up causing more people to smoke rather than saving millions of lives.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death globally. The United States is in a unique position to lead the fight against the epidemic if it pushes for the safe harbor clause in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Demand that the United States adopt the safe harbor provision to protect nations’ sovereignty over tobacco control laws, resulting in millions of lives saved.
Dear President Obama,
The safe harbor clause contained in drafts of an agreement by the Tans-Pacific Partnership is a vital part of battling tobacco consumption worldwide. By providing protection for nations and their own tobacco control laws against the tobacco industry, the provision could save tens of millions of lives.
With tobacco being the number one cause of preventable death in the world, the United States is in a position to contribute to the betterment of a major global public health issue. However, by rejecting the provision and yielding to pressure from Big Tobacco, your administration’s reputation for public health concern is tarnished. Adopt the safe harbor clause in your negotiations and save millions of lives, along with your reputation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons