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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Lobbies Against Anti-Smoking Laws

Last year, CVS Health Corporation made a bold move when it announced and followed through with their plan to stop selling tobacco products. Many critiqued the company for the fact that they singled out tobacco while continuing to sell alcohol. Nevertheless, CVS has held strong with their rebranding, Cigarettes Out, Health In.

CVS’ latest move was the announcement that it would resign from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to the discovery that the group and its foreign affiliates were engaging in a global lobbying campaign to undermine anti-smoking laws, The New York Times reports. Developing nations have been a major focus of the lobbying campaign.

“We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” David R. Palombi, a senior vice president at the company, said in a statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.” 

The anti-smoking targets of the lobbying campaign included:
  • Restrictions On Smoking in Public
  • Menthol and Slim Cigarette Bans
  • Advertising Restrictions
  • Increases In Excise Taxes
  • Graphic Warning Labels and Plain Packaging
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce defends their position, stating:

“To be clear, the chamber does not support smoking and wants people to quit,” the group said in a statement.

“At the same time, we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment.” 

Much of the argument has to do with big tobacco’s claim that graphic warning labels and plain packaging infringe on trademarks and intellectual property. However, many feel that tobacco companies are simply trying to increase revenue streams in underdeveloped countries, because they have lost their market in the United States. A number of nations cannot afford to take on American interests in court when anti-smoking laws are contested.

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