Tag: tobacco

CVS Ditches US Chamber of Commerce

Last week the New York Tines reported that the US Chamber of Commerce was working to fight anti-tobacco measures in foreign countries:

The U.S. Chamber’s work in support of the tobacco industry in recent years has emerged as a priority at the same time the industry has faced one of the most serious threats in its history. A global treaty, negotiated through the World Health Organization, mandates anti-smoking measures and also seeks to curb the influence of the tobacco industry in policy making. The treaty, which took effect in 2005, has been ratified by 179 countries; holdouts include Cuba, Haiti and the United States.

Facing a wave of new legislation around the world, the tobacco lobby has turned for help to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the weight of American business behind it. While the chamber’s global tobacco lobbying has been largely hidden from public view, its influence has been widely felt.

Letters, emails and other documents from foreign governments, the chamber’s affiliates and antismoking groups, which were reviewed by The New York Times, show how the chamber has embraced the challenge, undertaking a three-pronged strategy in its global campaign to advance the interests of the tobacco industry.

In the capitals of far-flung nations, the chamber lobbies alongside its foreign affiliates to beat back antismoking laws.

Last year the drug store chain CVS stopped selling tobacco products. Now, in light of the Chamber’s activity on behalf og the tobacco lobby, CVS has announced that it is resigning its membership.

“We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” David R. Palombi, a senior vice president at the company, said in a statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.” [..]

The campaign runs counter to efforts by some of the chamber’s members. Four health care companies that serve on its board – Anthem, the Health Care Service Corporation, the Steward Health Care System of Boston and the Indiana University Health system – all support antismoking programs. [..]

For CVS, which has 7,800 locations nationwide, the move is the latest step in rebranding itself as a health care destination, rather than a convenience store with a pharmacy. The company now operates nearly 1,000 walk-in clinics staffed by nurse practitioners.

Its executives have said that selling cigarettes is not consistent with its new strategy. The company has begun offering smoke cessation programs and recently helped conduct a smoke cessation study involving its employees and their relatives and friends.

“We believe the chamber has advocated for many important causes over the years, and we thank them for their leadership on these issues,” Mr. Palombi said. “Given the leadership position we took last year in removing tobacco products from our stores, however, we have decided to withdraw our membership in the chamber.”

Tobacco Companies

In a 20 minute segment of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver lights up an industry giant, tobacco and how it uses the courts to suppress the laws of the poorest countries to restrict cigarette sales and inform their citizens of the health hazards of tobacco use. John also introduces a new mascot and a tee shirt, Jeff the Diseased Lung, for an adverting campaign

As Last Week Tonight host John Oliver notes early in his incredible, 20-minute examination of the global battle being fought over tobacco advertising, the smoking rate in the United States has dropped from 43 percent in 1965 to 18 percent today thanks to strict laws outlawing cigarette ads. With America largely kicking its smoking habit, the tobacco industry has been forced to make up the revenues abroad, leading to court battles in countries like Australia, Uruguay and Togo, one of the 10 poorest nations in the world.

Oliver’s takedown also focuses on the extreme lengths companies like Philip Morris International are going to place their products in the hands of the youth, including a Marlboro-sponsored kiosk outside an Indonesian school where teens can purchase a single cigarette for a dime.

Countries have responded to Big Tobacco’s unorthodox marketing with laws that allow government to place grotesque images of smoker’s lung and blackened teeth on cigarette packaging, but even those measures have resulted in threats of billion-dollar lawsuits from the tobacco giants in international court.

One such battle is being waged in Togo, where Philip Morris International, a company with annual earnings of $80 billion, is threatening a nation with a GDP of $4.3 billion over their plans to add the harsh imagery to cigarette boxes, since much of the population is illiterate and therefore can’t read the warning labels.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Tobacco

The tobacco industry derives much of its legal power from treaties like the World Trade Organization

That’s right, a company was able to sue a country over a public health measure through an international court. How the f*ck is that possible?

Apparently, PMI had dug up a treaty from 1993 that stated that Australia couldn’t seize Hong Kong-based companies’ properties, so before it started litigation, it moved its Australia business to its Hong Kong-based division and then sued claiming the property being seized was its trademarks on its cigarette packages.

But it wasn’t just PMI who came after Australia. Three countries – Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Ukraine – also filed complaints with the World Trade Organization against Australia’s plain packaging law. However, it turns out, Ukraine has zero trade with Australia of any tobacco products. [..]

Not surprisingly, these complaints are fully backed by PMI, who will even cover some of the legal costs. But Big Tobacco doesn’t just go after big countries; the small South American country of Uruguay was also a target. Oliver points out that it’s a country we think so little about that the audience didn’t even notice he was deliberately highlighting the wrong country on a map to prove his point.

It is treaties like the WTO that harm struggling counties and the poorest populations around the world. President Barack Obama would like to further that harm with even bigger “free trade” like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These treaties will cause job losses, lower wages, higher drug prices, endanger the environment and food supplies. The treaties also would give companies, like Phillip Morris International, even more power to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits, undermining democracy. They are being negotiated in secret and the public only knows about them because Wikileaks released drafts of some of the worst clauses that it had acquired.

MLB Needs to Ban Chewing Tobacco

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The recent death of retired San Diego Padres baseball player Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer has sparked a conversation about the use of chewing tobacco. Gwynn attributed his cancer to dipping tobacco, a habit that he picked up in 1981. Although, there are no studies linking tobacco to salivary gland cancer, as with smoking tobacco, it is considered a risk factor. ESPN sportscaster Keith Olbermann thinks that it’s past time that chewing tobacco use is banned from baseball.

Banning the habit would be a good idea, not just as a way of remembering Tony Gwynn but protecting players health and as an example for the fans of the game.

We’re not stupid; We’re Legislators!

New York has a new budget:

After reaching an agreement late Tuesday with Gov. David A. Paterson on the last unresolved pieces of the state budget, the Legislature passed the bills on Wednesday that will complete New York’s $122 billion spending plan for the next year.

The new budget, which relies on an array of taxes and fees for smokers, banks, hair salon patrons and others to keep the state’s 200,000-person government running, comes as New York faces one of the most uncertain economic outlooks in recent years.

Among the taxes and fees New Yorkers will have to pay are a $1.25 increase in the state cigarette tax. The new budget also closes a loophole in the state’s tax law that allowed online retailers like Amazon.com to avoid charging New York State sales tax on purchases.

A plan to raise income taxes on New Yorkers who earn more than $1 million a year was not included.


Millions of dollars worth of counterfeit tax stamps were seized and a Jordanian man arrested as part of a major undercover investigation into tobacco smuggling in New York, authorities announced Wednesday.

The arrest comes as some authorities voice concern about whether New York state’s planned $1.25-per-pack hike in tobacco taxes, taking the price of a pack in the city to about $9, will fuel demand for contraband cigarettes.

Health surveys have found that more than a third of New York state smokers already regularly buy cigarettes from untaxed sources.

State Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Robert L. Megna said his agency has stepped up its campaign against contraband cigarette trafficking over the past year.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Can You Persuade Me to Support S-CHIP?

I pose this as a direct challenge to the community: can you persuade me to support the recently vetoed bill to expand S-CHIP?  Support for this bill, and for an attempt to override the President’s veto, is nearly universal here.  Despite that, I intend to challenge the community to justify this to me. 

It is not truly important for you to bother to do this.  I am only one person, and few people share my opinion.  Further, whether or not you agree with me, this is very advantageous political theater, and undermining it by seriously questioning its foundations has disadvantages.  That being said, I’ll make my case, and I’ll even give you reason to believe you can succeed in converting me.