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International trade agreements: a threat to tobacco control policy
  1. E R Shaffer1,
  2. J E Brenner2,
  3. T P Houston3
  1. 1Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health, San Francisco, California, USA
  2. 2Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Ellen R Shaffer
 PhD MPH, Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health, 98 Seal Rock Drive, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA;


International covenants establish a role for governments in ensuring the conditions for human health and wellbeing, which has been recognised as a central human right. International trade agreements, conversely, prioritise the rights of corporations over health and human rights. International trade agreements are threatening existing tobacco control policies and restrict the possibility of implementing new controls. This situation is unrecognised by many tobacco control advocates in signatory nations, especially those in developing countries. Recent agreements on eliminating various trade restrictions, including those on tobacco, have expanded far beyond simply international movement of goods to include internal tobacco distribution regulations and intellectual property rules regulating advertising and labelling. Our analysis shows that to the extent trade agreements protect the tobacco industry, in itself a deadly enterprise, they erode human rights principles and contribute to ill health. The tobacco industry has used trade policy to undermine effective barriers to tobacco importation. Trade negotiations provide an unwarranted opportunity for the tobacco industry to assert its interests without public scrutiny. Trade agreements provide the industry with additional tools to obstruct control policies in both developed and developing countries and at every level. The health community should become involved in reversing these trends, and help promote additional measures to protect public health.

  • CAFTA, Central America Free Trade Agreement
  • FIDH, International Federation for Human Rights
  • FCTC, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
  • FTAA, Free Trade Area of the Americas
  • GATS, General Agreement on Trade in Services
  • GATT, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
  • ISO, International Standards Organization
  • NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement
  • SPS, Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS)
  • TBT, Technical Barriers to Trade
  • TRIPS, Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
  • UDHR, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • USCEA, US Cigarette Export Association
  • WTO, World Trade Organization
  • trade
  • global economy
  • human rights
  • public health
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  • Competing interests: none declared

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