Big Tobacco's Pacific Trade-Pact Fight
Images of rotten teeth and cancerous lungs on cigarette packs in Australia have commanded much of the recent attention in the global war between health advocates and the tobacco industry. But next year a battle over a little-known trade treaty could discourage other nations from adopting tobacco controls as stringent as Australia’s plain packaging law.
The fight is playing out in emerging markets such as Malaysia and Vietnam as part of their review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposal to lower trade barriers among 12 countries including the U.S. At issue is whether tobacco should be exempted from the free-trade accord—a move antismoking forces support. Tobacco companies hope it is included in the pact because they would have more options to fight restrictions. If so, governments would be reluctant to require plain packaging or other marketing limits out of fear they’d trigger costly legal battles with tobacco makers, says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.