Recent articles in the New York Times have falsely alleged that the U.S. Chamber is working around the world to promote the use of tobacco. Let’s be very clear: This organization is not in the business of promoting cigarette smoking at home or abroad, period.
Smoking is a clear hazard to one’s health. As an employer we strongly encourage our own staff to avoid tobacco products, and we offer various cessation products and services to them through our health provider.
It’s disappointing that the New York Times gathered a number of letters the Chamber sent to governments around the world for its recent articles but then doesn’t seem to have bothered to read them. Our communications to governments concerning tobacco have explicitly made clear that we support their efforts to address public health concerns.
Yet while we do not support tobacco use, we still believe that governments should uphold intellectual property rights, adhere to international commitments, and promulgate rules that are sensible and effective. It is these concerns that have been the focus of our advocacy efforts on behalf of this and many other industries.
To be more specific:
Intellectual Property – Companies invest in their brand which is why they seek trademark protection from governments. Trademark protection isn’t selectively granted on an industry by industry basis. It’s available to all legal industries and should be respected.
Discriminatory Treatment – Legal industries, even those that are unpopular, should not be targets of discriminatory treatment, nor should proposed government measures target those who conduct business with an out of favor industry. Such attempts are unfair and like most ill-conceived government policies come with unintended consequences.
Tax - Upon occasion we have weighed in regarding excise taxes in cases where we believe the proposals are excessive and where the proposed use of the resulting government windfall is fiscally questionable. It is well known that tobacco taxes can reach a level where they become a key driver of illicit trade.
To underscore, these very same policy principles apply not just to the tobacco industry but to all industries. We routinely advocate them in our communications to governments around the world and at home, on behalf of the broad American business community.
The Chamber believes that public health policy aimed at curbing smoking can yield positive results, while still upholding intellectual property protections, honoring international agreements, and not singling out any specific industry for discriminatory treatment or destruction of company brands.