For Immediate Release - January 27, 2014

AG Coakley Urges Exclusion of Tobacco Products From US Trade Agreement in Effort to Uphold State Regulations

BOSTON – In a continued effort to protect the public from the harms of tobacco products, Attorney General Martha Coakley and a coalition of states are urging that a proposed international trade and investment agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), not affect the ability of state and local governments to properly regulate tobacco products.

AG Coakley, along with 44 attorneys general, sent the letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) requesting that it exclude tobacco products from the TPP, now in the final stages of negotiation, to maintain the current regulation of tobacco products in the interests of public health.

“Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the effective enforcement of laws and regulations relating to tobacco products is essential to help protect public health,” AG Coakley said. “We urge the US Trade Representative not to jeopardize the ability of state and local governments to regulate tobacco products with this agreement.”

The TPP is a proposed multilateral trade and investment agreement among countries located on the Pacific Rim. The agreement in its current draft would allow tobacco companies to challenge the enforcement of federal, state and local laws and public health regulations. The agreement fails to directly recognize tobacco as a harmful product and cause of fatal diseases, treating the product much like other traded goods. As stated in the letter, the proposal “would not adequately protect state and local regulation from these potential adverse consequences.”

“Tobacco is the only product that, when used as intended, causes fatal diseases in many of its users without providing any nutritional or other health benefits,” the letter states. “It kills 440,000 Americans every year and, at present rates, will kill more than one billion people worldwide in this century. There is no policy justification for including tobacco products in agreements that are intended to promote and expand trade and investment generally.”

State attorneys general have fought for years to protect people from the dangers of tobacco products. In 1998, Massachusetts and 51 states and territories signed a landmark agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to recover billions of dollars in costs associated with smoking-related illnesses, and restrict cigarette advertising to prevent youth smoking.

More recently, in September, AG Coakley co-sponsored a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging the need for immediate regulatory oversight of the newest tobacco products coming onto the market – e-cigarettes – which the FDA has authority to regulate under the Tobacco Control Act, including by prohibiting their sale to minors. 

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