Health and Fitness

United States Chamber of Commerce: Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco

Working for Big Tobacco, Chamber Fights to Delay, Block Life-Saving Policies

WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)—July 16, 2015. With deep ties to the tobacco industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been working to derail tobacco control rules and undermine life-saving policies in dozens of countries around the world, according to a new report released today by a coalition of public interest and health groups.

The report, “Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco,” details how the Chamber uses its political clout to carry water for Big Tobacco, while countries around the world fight the global tobacco epidemic that is projected to kill one billion people this century. The Chamber does not represent the U.S. government or the view of the American public, but often its positions on public policies around the world, including public health policies, are perceived as carrying the weight of the U.S. business community. As such, disregarding its positions can carry an implied economic threat.

Although the Chamber does not publicly disclose its membership list, the report details just how deep the ties are between the two groups. Notably, the Altria Group, the largest tobacco company operating in the United Sates, sits on the Chamber’s board, and four of the largest multinational tobacco companies – Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International – hold memberships in more than 55 American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) affiliates.

“The U.S. Chamber and its AmCham affiliates are fighting hand in hand with the tobacco industry in countries from Ukraine to Cambodia, often without fully disclosing their connection to the tobacco industry,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, which runs U.S. Chamber Watch. “This is another example of the disgraceful influence-peddling the Chamber engages in to the detriment of public health.”

The report examines five cases – from Uruguay, Burkina Faso, Moldova, the European Union and the Philippines – illustrating how the Chamber has worked to oppose tobacco control polices. Additionally, the report includes a list of other known attempts by the Chamber to oppose a range of tobacco control policies including graphic health warnings, tobacco advertising restrictions and increased tobacco taxes.

The cases reveal that the Chamber’s activities, paired with the broader efforts of tobacco companies, have in some cases resulted in government officials weakening draft tobacco control policies. In other cases, the Chamber’s interventions have delayed and complicated the efforts of governments to adopt and implement tobacco control policies.

The report lays out several steps governments can take to protect public health policies from interference by the Chamber and calls on the Chamber and its AmCham affiliates to publicly disclose their donors so that lawmakers and government officials can be fully informed about their relationships with the tobacco industry.

The report was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Public Citizen, Corporate Accountability International, the Framework Convention Alliance, Action on Smoking and Health (US), Smoke-Free Partnership, InterAmerican Heart Foundation, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance and the African Tobacco Control Alliance.

Read the report.