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Removal Of ‘Safe Harbor’ Provision From TPP Will Threaten Global Anti-Tobacco Efforts

“[T]he Obama administration appears to be on the verge of bowing to pressure from a powerful special-interest group, the tobacco industry, in a move that would be a colossal public health mistake and potentially contribute to the deaths of tens of millions of people around the world,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “Although the president’s signature domestic issue has been health-care reform, his legacy on public health will be severely tarnished — at a terrible cost to the poor in the developing world — unless his administration reverses course on this issue,” he continues, noting the Obama administration this week removed from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade agreement, a “safe harbor” clause “protecting nations that have adopted regulations on tobacco — like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions — because of ‘the unique status of tobacco products from a health and regulatory perspective.'”

“If the Obama administration’s policy reversal is allowed to stand, not only will cigarettes be cheaper for the 800 million people in the countries affected by the trade pact, but multinational tobacco corporations will be able to challenge those governments — including America’s — for implementing lifesaving public health policies,” Bloomberg writes, noting “[t]obacco use causes more deaths around the world than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.” He discusses successful anti-tobacco policies and programs implemented in New York City and in other countries through his philanthropy. “But if the trade pact proceeds without the safe harbor provision, this progress will be jeopardized, a devastating setback for the global effort to reduce tobacco use, particularly because the signatories to the trade pact include nations — like the United States, Australia and Vietnam — that have some of the world’s strongest tobacco control measures,” Bloomberg writes, concluding, “[A] deal that sells out our national commitment to public health, and forfeits our sovereign authority over our tobacco laws, does not merit the support of Mr. Obama; of the Senate, which would have to ratify it; or of the American people” (8/22).