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Letters To New York Times Editor Respond To Opinion Piece On Trade Agreement, Tobacco Control

The New York Times on Monday published several letters to the editor in response to New York City Michael Bloomberg’s August 22 opinion piece urging the Obama administration to retain a “safe harbor” provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that would protect nations with strong anti-tobacco laws.

  • HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr praises Bloomberg’s leadership on tobacco issues, and states, “The Obama administration has a long history of tackling the tobacco epidemic, including the landmark Tobacco Control Act, expanded cessation coverage and new investments in community-based prevention.” He continues, “The United States government’s proposal on tobacco in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations represents a step forward for public health in the international trade community. It would provide health authorities a new opportunity to voice their views, and critically, it recognizes that tobacco is a product like no other with an unparalleled effect on human health because it is addictive, always harmful to health, and the single most preventable cause of death worldwide.”
  • John Maa, chair of the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program at the University of California, also recognizes Bloomberg’s tobacco control efforts in New York City, and he writes, “I appreciate Mayor Bloomberg’s disappointment regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and also understand the difficult realities to reach consensus in the trade agreement.” He continues, “Controlling the global epidemic of tobacco use is an international responsibility that other world leaders must also champion. It is my hope that the leadership of the mayor and the president can be unified to resolve remaining domestic tobacco concerns first: banning menthol in cigarettes, regulating electronic cigarettes and achieving the full use of graphic warning labels to end tobacco’s deadly toll in America.”
  • Calman Cohen, president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade, states, “We support efforts to improve public health, but we oppose inserting provisions in trade agreements in the name of public health that are unnecessary and unjustified and could open the door to measures by our trading partners that threaten American exports and jobs.” He says, “For half a century, administrations have maintained that in trade agreements the United States remains free to safeguard the national and public interest, including public health,” and he adds, “When science and evidence support a nondiscriminatory regulatory action, it already has a safe harbor in our trade agreements and under sovereign United States law. To imply otherwise is to create problems where none exist” (8/26).