262296 Trading Away Health: The Case of Global Tobacco Control

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 4:34 PM - 4:48 PM

Sohil R. Sud, MD, MA , Department of Pediatrics, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, CA
Joseph E. Brenner, MA , Center for Policy Analysis on Trade & Health, San Francisco, CA
Ellen R. Shaffer, PhD MPH , Center for Policy Analysis, San Francisco, CA
Background Tobacco corporations are suing governments around the world, claiming that regulations on tobacco marketing practices are violations of international trade agreements. Little is known within the healthcare community about these lawsuits and their potential to derail efforts to reduce tobacco consumption.

Methods 1. Primary and secondary literature was reviewed to identify trade-related lawsuits brought forth by tobacco corporations in the past five years. For each identified lawsuit, relevant trade agreements, health policies, and legal arguments were assessed. 2. Recent U.S. trade agreements were then reviewed to ascertain whether they propagate the ability of tobacco companies to sue governments and oppose health legislation.

Results 1. There are 4 ongoing trade-related lawsuits by tobacco corporations against countries. In Uruguay and Australia, arbitration focuses on whether cigarette packaging regulations unfairly impinge upon the ability to display corporate trademarks. In Norway and Ireland, arbitration focuses on whether retail display bans technically restrict free-movement of tobacco products. 2. Trade agreements forming the basis of the aforementioned lawsuits were signed between 1990 and 1994. To determine if recent agreements are susceptible to similar litigation, 6 post-2004 U.S. trade agreements were analyzed. In every case, this proved true: corporations were granted legal rights to challenge tobacco control measures.

Conclusions Trade-based challenges to health policies represent a growing threat against efforts to curb smoking. Ongoing lawsuits and contemporary U.S. trade agreements challenge health principles by treating tobacco—a lethal and addictive product—the same as any other good. Health-conscious trade reform is necessary to reduce worldwide tobacco consumption.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how tobacco companies are harnessing trade agreements to sue countries and combat health policies 2. Identify whether recent U.S. trade agreements perpetuate the ability of corporations to litigate against governments and contend health regulations

Keywords: Tobacco Control, Public Health Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: For the past 2 years, I have harnessed my training and experiences in medicine and international affairs to study and present on the relationship between trade policies and tobacco control.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.