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February 27, 2003

Contact: Patrick Reynolds, President, tobaccofree.org
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We are posting this release from Senator Durbin and Reps Waxman and Urge as a courtesy to them. tobaccofree.org feels this is an important story. 

Bush Administration Urged to Stop Tactics to Weaken International Tobacco Treaty

For Immediate Release
February 26, 2003

Karen Lightfoot (with Rep. Waxman): (202) 225-5051
Joe Shoemaker (with Sen. Durbin): (202) 224-7028
Julie Davis (with Rep. Doggett): (202) 225-4865

Rep. Waxman, Sen. Durbin and Rep. Doggett Urge

(Washington, DC) — February 26, 2003 — After learning that the U.S. is pressuring other countries to promote its irresponsible, pro-tobacco, anti-health agenda during negotiations on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) sent a letter to President Bush today, urging that the Administration reverse its course.

“It is outrageous that rather than working with the international community to eliminate the shared threats we face to our health, our security, and our environment, the Administration opts instead to squander goodwill in the aftermath of 9/11 and pursue policies that tend to unite our enemies and undermine our allies,” said Rep. Doggett. “Instead of working with the majority of nations seeking meaningful action against the nicotine pandemic, this Administration continues to appease Big Tobacco at the expense of public health.”

“It is astonishing that the United States has asked Saudi Arabia to weaken the global tobacco treaty,” said Rep. Waxman. “America’s international influence should not be misused to help tobacco companies peddle their products to the rest of the world.”

“The financial interests of the Marlboro Man seem to carry more weight with this Administration than the health and well-being of the average man. “This Administration is simply doing the bidding of Big Tobacco,” said Sen. Durbin.

Letter to President Bush from Rep. Waxman, Sen. Durbin and Rep. Doggett

February 26, 2003
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:

We have just become aware that one week prior to the final negotiating session on the global tobacco treaty, the United States sent a letter to Saudi Arabia asking for Saudi help in weakening the international tobacco agreement. We strongly object to this action. We urge you to renounce this position before the close of negotiations on Friday.

According to a letter sent from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, dated February 8, 2003, the United States recognizes that the relationship between health and trade will be “one of the most vigorously debated issues” in the negotiations on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The letter, which is attached, then explains the U.S. position.

First, the letter asserts that there is no conflict between existing trade rules and the FCTC. In fact, there is a long history of countries and companies using trade arguments to fight tobacco control measures. Most recently, for example, Philip Morris has argued that Canada’s plan to bar the use of misleading descriptors for cigarettes, including “light” and “mild,” would violate trademark protections in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. As many trade experts recognize, the enormous harm tobacco causes justifies treating it differently than other products.

Second, the letter states that “the United States will work to include recognition in the FCTC of fundamental trade principles, such as nondiscrimination.” The effect of such language would be to allow countries and companies to use “nondiscrimination” as a cover to attack effective tobacco control measures that have different effects on different products. Poor countries might not want to pursue tobacco control policies that would risk an expensive legal battle, even one that would be winnable. The result would be the deterring and delaying of life-saving measures.

Third, the letter states that the United States encourages “trade and agriculture ministry participation in developing government positions for the February FCTC session.” These are the ministries most likely to represent the interests of the tobacco industry. The unspoken implication is that health ministries need to be countered in negotiating the treaty.

This diplomatic overture to the Saudis just one week prior to the final negotiating session can only be understood as an attempt to weaken the treaty. It comes just one week after Rep. Waxman and Sen. Durbin disclosed numerous instances of your Administration promoting tobacco abroad in trade deals and other actions that raise serious questions of compliance with congressional prohibitions.
Over a year ago, Rep. Waxman wrote to you protesting efforts by your negotiators to weaken the tobacco treaty. We have just obtained a copy of Philip Morris’s internal analysis of this letter and your Administration’s actions on the FCTC, a copy of which is attached. According to Philip Morris:

“In general, PMI [Philip Morris International] and PM USA have taken positions on the WHO treaty that, if anything, are to the left of the Bush Administration . . . . [W]e are supporting a treaty that would have many mandatory provisions to obligate signatory nations to minimum standards. The Administration, in contrast, appears to favor a voluntary approach in most areas.”

It is revealing that Philip Morris, the nation’s largest cigarette exporter, says that your positions are even less protective of public health than its own. We urge you to reverse course immediately and support a strong tobacco treaty.


Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives

Richard J. Durbin
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia
Committee on Governmental Affairs
U.S. Senate

Lloyd Doggett
U.S. House of Representatives

NOTE:This letter to President Bush, the referenced US Embassy letter to Suadi Arabia, and Philip Morris e-mail are available at:

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