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Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Autumn 2001

‘You’re Dead? We’re Proud!’ US Snuffs Tobacco Treaty

Last October, in a replay of its role in killing a treaty designed to control global warming, the US turned its back on the world community and drove a stake through attempts to finalize the International Tobacco Control Treaty. The story went virtually unreported in the US media.

The World Health Organization (WHO) convened the tobacco summit in Geneva, Switzerland in an attempt to sanction a global crackdown on selling, advertising and promoting tobacco – a deadly addictive drug that is expected to kill as many as 10 million people in the next 30 years.

During the WHO’s October hearings on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Geneva, the tobacco industry pressed for looser, "sensible regulations" of its deadly product. "The message of the public health authorities is our message," testified Philip Morris Europe VP David Davies. But while Davies admitted that tobacco smoking "is addictive and causes disease in smokers," he said his company was not responsible for smokers’ deaths. "We should not be held responsible for their choices," Davies declared. "We are proud of our product."

The US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids [1440 Eye Street, No. 1200, Washington DC 20005, (202) 296-5469] called Davies’ extraordinary comment "one of the most callous expressions of disregard for health ever made by a corporation. No responsible corporate citizen would be proud of manufacturing a product that kills more than one-half of the people who use it regularly."

Former US Surgeon General Everett Koop told the Geneva conference that the tobacco industry "has preyed on our children and lied to our governments. It has manipulated nicotine and political systems.

What You Can Do: Contact your representatives and demand that the US support the FCTC. For the full text of the treaty and organizing information, contact NATT, a coalition of 65 organizations from 40 countries [c/o INFACT, 46 Plympton St., Boston, MA 02118, (800) 688-8797, http://www.treatycheck.org].

"We have the opportunity to stop the spread of disease and death transported by tobacco companies across borders into new populations of non-users," Koop declared. "If the US government fails to actively support a strong FCTC," he said, "we will be doing the entire world a disservice."

Ricardo Navarro from the Network for Accountability for Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) voiced concern that "the US and Japan are adopting positions which would clearly benefit the tobacco companies." Clive Bates, director of the UK-based Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), was livid: "The US contribution has been entirely negative – weakening, delaying and deleting anything that might have substance," Bates said. "It would be best if the US delegation goes home..., adopts its increasingly familiar ostrich stance and stays out altogether."

The chair of the Geneva summit, Brazilian diplomat Celso Amorim, also expressed outrage at the US’ delaying tactics. "It’s a matter of urgency," he said. "It has to do with people’s health and it can’t be postponed."

   

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