November 18, 2003
Dear Delegates to the FTAA Ministerial:
We are writing to urge you to exclude tobacco products from the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which you will be negotiating November 20-21, 2003 in Miami, FL.
Tobacco is a product like no other, in that it kills if used as intended. According to the Pan American Health Organization, tobacco already kills more than a million people a year in the Americas, including 440,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. If we care about the health and well-being of people throughout the region, we must recognize the unique and deadly nature of tobacco and treat it differently than we do other commodities.
Failure to exclude tobacco from the FTAA would give multinational tobacco corporations a variety of means to threaten sound tobacco control policies throughout the Americas. For example, tobacco corporations might invoke intellectual property protections to oppose bans on the use of misleading descriptors like "mild" and "light," alleging that such prohibitions interfere with trademark-protected names that include such terms; contest the strengthening of health warnings, arguing that they infringe upon trademark rights; and challenge ingredient disclosure laws, claiming a violation of trade secret protections - all arguments they have made under other trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The service agreements may conflict with efforts to restrict tobacco product retail distribution networks and limit tobacco advertising and marketing.
Most worrisome are foreign investment protections. Investment protections of the type included in NAFTA would give companies such as Philip Morris, BAT and Japan Tobacco standing to directly challenge national and sub-national laws that they claim are tantamount to an expropriation of their property. Under NAFTA, such claims may be made on broad grounds. Philip Morris has already suggested that a Canadian ban on "light" and "mild" would be tantamount to an expropriation of its trademark on products such as Benson & Hedges Lights and Rothmans Extra Light. The mere prospect of such challenges to tobacco control laws may deter countries from adopting sound public health measures, leading to countless, preventable deaths.
There is no legitimate rationale for including tobacco products - a lethal good - in trade agreements. We urge you to work to avert these potential harms to public health by advocating the exclusion of tobacco products from the scope of the FTAA.