So what happens to Tobacco Row when they find their market for sickerettes shrinking? Globalize! Pick on places like Africa, India, Latin America and the Phillipines....Aggressively promote your products and especially target Youth = get them hooked early and keep them hooked for life! In developed nations, smoking prevalence is down about 8 percent over the past decade, yet it is up by about 14 percent in developing nations. But there is help on the way!
February 26-27 the World Health Organization brought together representatives from 35 nations to address the problem of globalized world nicotine pushing. One of the presentators is Margaret Chan, the Head of the World Health Organization reponsible for the first International Treaty regulating the tobacco industry. 176 Nations accounting for 90% of the World's population signed the treaty. Here are some of her comments:
"We are experiencing the globalization of unhealthy lifestyles. Tobacco rests at the top as the biggest universal threat. It causes cancer at 15 sites and is driven by forces that lie beyond the control of health authorities. It is an economically and politically powerful industry -- our enemy -- bent on avoiding regulation and maintaining profits. But the tobacco industry needs to be worried. Regulatory control has always been a deep fear of the industry, and it has come true."
"A disturbing trend is using trade agreements under the jurisdiction of the World Trade Organization to avoid regulation -- exploited by the industry to challenge tobacco control measures in the courts. They use lengthy and expensive litigation. It can provoke a domino effect so that when one country buckles under pressure of litigation, other countries will be intimidated. They fear that trade sanctions will be imposed by trading partners. But we have had significant recent victories. And another winning force -- the strong voice of civil society organizations. We are engaged in a very long battle between protection of public health and pursuit of private profit."
Vesile Kulacoglu, Director, Trade and Environment Division of the World Trade Organization, addressed directly the tobacco industry's tactic of using trade agreements to thwart anti-tobacco laws:
"Case law confirms a policy space to take measures on justifiable public policy considerations applied in good faith, subject to certain conditions. These include non-restrictiveness of the measures, general exceptions under WTO rules, and flexibility to pursue legitimate public policies. This health dispute is not new. A number of health policies have been found to be legitimate exceptions. This includes asbestos in 2001, and retreaded tires is a recent case. WTO respects the rights of nations to determine the level of protection of health they consider appropriate in a given situation."
Lots of compelling discussion and argument. From the conference, one truth is clear -- the tobacco wars are far from over. In some ways, we're clearly winning, and in other ways, we're clearly losing. And the fight goes on...