Does tobacco deserve trade protection?

The use of trade agreements by tobacco companies to undermine tobacco control was a key topic at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore in March this year, and trade agreements are one of the weapons the tobacco industry is counting on to fight plain packaging. To ensure public health is given higher priority than free trade, an Austrian tobacco control advocate has started an online petition aimed at the World Trade Organization to demand that tobacco be excluded from free trade agreements. Read more and sign the petition here.

  • DaveAtherton20

    Historians generally agree that the German hyper inflation of 1923, the
    Wall Street crash and economic misery of the 1930s contributed greatly
    to the rise of Hitler. This was accompanied by imposing tariffs on goods
    and services, leading to a retraction in world trade of 66%, thereby
    increasing economic deprivation. The modern analogy is Euro indebted
    Greece where the poverty has increased the vote to both the extremist
    left and right.

    The 19th century French economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat wrote “When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.” 
    Free trade in my opinion has contributed greatly to world peace since
    1945 and has helped millions if not billions of people in developing
    countries such as India and China. IT and call centres in India,
    manufactured goods in China. The latter has seen life expectancy in
    inward looking communist times in 1962-1982 of 60 to today’s free market
    life expectancy of 74.84 years.

    It seems very fashionable to knock tobacco companies for buying their
    produce from Malawi. However tobacco is responsible for 70% of Malawi’s
    foreign currency. The WHO maybe keen to stop them producing, but what
    crops will replace them? In the European Union the Common Agricultural
    Policy (CAP) applies punitive tariffs to developing world agriculture,
    the USA and Australia do the same. Malawi nevertheless, my figures are
    from UNICEF, have a near 100% immunisation rate from common child
    diseases such as TB, measles, polio etc. 91% of children go to primary
    school, adult literacy is an impressive 73%. There is still great
    poverty in Malawi and it would take the average person to work 2 days to
    afford one pack of cigarettes. One has to conclude that tobacco
    production in Malawi saves lives, unlike the users who will live on
    average 7 years less than non smokers.

    I look upon Australia’s plain packaging legislation as the equivalent of
    the state entering your home without a warrant and seizing/stealing
    your goods and chattels without compensation. The precedent for ending
    free trade has profound implications for world prosperity and peace. It
    was also consign developing countries to even greater levels of poverty.

    Disclaimer: I have never received a penny from tobacco companies
    directly or indirectly. However I have been paid by Pfizer who make
    smoking cessation drugs.

  • philhandyman24-7

    How despicable! Free trade is the ultimate object of any company, thus a persons health has absolutely no right to intercede. If people want to eat smarties all day long and rot their teeth are smarties to be treated in the same way? The WHO, the unelected, ungoverned power, need to climb down and allow people to choose how they want to live-not how they think people should live!
    Chan, Bloomberg, Gates et al, butt out-why don’t you do something useful and provide pipelines in Africa wher, apparently, 4,000 children per day are dying? Or is that not philanthropic enough for you?

  • The Australian High court broke WTO rules:

    In any event, such legislation would appear to be in breach of World Trade Organisation rules, which state that ‘the use of a trademark in the course of trade shall not be unjustifiably encumbered by special requirements’. Therefore, the tobacco industry – like it or loathe it – has reason to be dismayed at the loss of its brand property.

    These rules are dictated by international treaties……………..In essence no treaty is worth the paper its written on any longer if the DOMINO EFFECT happens like ASH and the WHO so desperately want. In fact an investigation should be held of the Aussie high court as they gave no reasons for their rash decision last week. Sayying instead theyd deliver reasons for judgement at a later date!

  • Marita Hefler

    The WTO specifically makes provision for states to place public health above trade: “…WTO Agreements recognize that there are cases where Members may wish to subordinate trade-related considerations to other legitimate policy objectives and constraints, such as health. WTO jurisprudence, on several occasions, has confirmed that WTO Members have the right to determine the level of health protection they deem appropriate. Human health has been recognized by the WTO as being “important in the highest degree.” See ‘WTO agreements and public health’ available at

  • Marita Hefler

    So no company should face restrictions on its trade, ever – no matter how dangerous the product? Let”s go back to using asbestos and lead-based paint. Sure, they might kill a few people but company profits are the most important objective.

  • Marita Hefler

    This is not about ending free trade, it’s about restricting how companies with a uniquely dangerous product trade. Ironic that you raise life expectancy as an issue… the tobacco epidemic has a profound impact on life expectancy, not to mention the impact of illness and death it causes to families.

  • You better check pg 25 out in your link,Intellectual property has PROTECTION! ie brands and packs!

  • Marita Hefler

    See comment above – states still have the right to determine the level of health protection they deem appropriate.

  • Thats where you come in correct along with whatever UN muscle you can swing! Now how about posting the rest of my post!

  • Its funny you make me laugh!

    I suppose you can provide a study that proves the end points to any claim made against tobacco!

    I thought not as none exist…….

  • Marita the rules say PROOF must be shown in order to change brands or change any trade agreement!

    There are no studies prooving brand removal or plain packs reduces smoking rates,further there is no PROOF smoking causes anything in any smoker much less in non-smokers!

    Read the following as your TC world collapses around you:

    JOINT STATEMENT ON THE RE-ASSESSMENT OF THE TOXICOLOGICAL TESTING OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS” 7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18 November 2004.
    “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”
    In other words … our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can’t even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact … we don’t even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.
    The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory.

  • I have no problem with this. I just hope they unify the system and make it manageable for smaller exporters. It seems every new rule is designed to be passable by big business, but not by smaller ones…