Taking action on smoking and health
A new free trade agreement, being negotiated behind closed doors by the EU and the US, could allow tobacco companies to sue the UK and Scottish Governments for introducing health measures that reduce their profits.
Cutting tobacco use will have enormous health benefits and should be a greater priority for politicians than defending the profits of the companies who sell it. Yet the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would allow companies to sue governments over regulations deemed to impact on their profits. Challenges would not be heard in the normal public courts but in secret tribunals known as investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS). Rulings would be made by trade lawyers rather than judges.
Tobacco companies are already using ISDS arrangements from other trade agreements to bully governments. Philip Morris is using ISDS to sue Uruguay for increasing the size of the health warnings on cigarette packs, and has brought a case against Australia over its introduction of plain, standardised tobacco packaging.
Scotland has its own history of tobacco industry challenges to policies that affect their business. But these challenges have been heard in domestic courts, on the basis of domestic law. The TTIP threatens new powers, less accountability and a huge shift towards putting corporate profits before public health.
A similar treaty recently agreed by the US Government, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, includes a specific carve-out for tobacco control policies. While this doesn’t include other legitimate public health measures, it does recognise the unique nature of tobacco as an addictive product that kills half of its long-term users. This experience shows that if public health advocates stand their ground, there is an alternative.
Please write to your MEPs setting out that:
Ask your MEP to reply, indicating whether or not they support the proposals. And please let us know of any responses you receive.
Further information on TTIP:
War on Want
Scottish Parliament Information Centre briefing
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
ASH Scotland acknowledges with thanks the support of the British Heart Foundation and the Scottish Government in developing our website.