Waxman Criticizes U.S. Stance on Global Tobacco Controls
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) yesterday said the Bush administration was "marching in lock-step" with the tobacco industry to "undermine or eliminate" global regulations on tobacco, the Los Angeles Times reports. The criticism comes as delegates from 191 countries are set to begin discussions in Geneva on Nov. 22 at the third round of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which will discuss "potential controls" on tobacco exports, taxes and advertising. In a 12-page letter to Bush, Waxman provided the following examples of how he believes the U.S. negotiators' stances are "identical" or slightly different from those of Philip Morris:
- Exports: While the FCTC would require tobacco companies to adhere to the laws of their home country when manufacturing export for the developing world, U.S. negotiators have proposed an amendment to eliminate the proposal.
- Taxes: Philip Morris opposes tobacco taxes, and the United States has proposed that all tobacco taxes be "voluntary."
- Advertising: While the treaty would require companies to disclose promotion expenses, U.S. negotiators have proposed requiring only the release of "aggregate" expenses.
- Regulations: The convention is considering giving the World Health Organization authorization to develop standards for tobacco production. Philip Morris opposes the standards, and the United States has proposed that individual governments set the standards.
- Duty-Free sales: The United States is opposing the elimination of duty-free sales, which give travelers access to low prices.
Waxman said, "It's either an eye popping coincidence or a testament to the insidious influence that Philip Morris has on the Bush administration." The Times reports that advocates of the "strong international antismoking treaty" say the administration's position has changed since Bush took office. Judy Wilkenfeld, director of international programs for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "Right on down the line, the Bush people either opposed strong positions or moved to delete provisions you need to have effective tobacco control." However, the White House said that "in general, the U.S. has been a world leader in efforts to control tobacco use -- particularly when it comes to teen smoking" (White, Los Angeles Times, 11/19).
In other tobacco news, the Justice Department filed hundreds of pages of expert testimony last week that allege the tobacco industry used "deceptive marketing practices" to earn billions in illegal profits from smokers who became addicted before they turned 21 years old, the Washington Post reports. The testimony is part of the government' lawsuit to recover civil damages from the tobacco industry under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The lawsuit alleges that the industry released "false and misleading statements" about the health effects of tobacco and concealed information that conflicted with their marketing campaigns. Filed with U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, testimony included statements on the industry's alleged efforts to target minors as potential customers and revenue calculations based on those who began smoking as youths. For example, testimony said that tobacco revenue from youth-addicted smokers between 1954 and 2000 ranges from $552 billion to $926 billion. Anthony Biglan, director of the Center for Community Intervention on Childbearing at the Oregon Research Institute, said the tobacco industry knew in the 1950s that adolescent smokers were "vital to the success of their business." Because those who begin smoking before age 18 "tend to be [brand] loyal," the industry "waged a long, elaborate and continuing public relations effort to deceive the public and policymakers about marketing of cigarettes to children and adolescents," he added. While lawyers for the industry had not seen the testimony and could not comment, William Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "Comments about this being a weak case and that we ought to settle it simply don't hold up" (Walsh, Washington Post, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.