In a statement issued late last week, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids decried the involvement of the tobacco industry in trade policy negotiations. The U.S. is in the process of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement with eight other countries. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids believes that this agreement could have implications for tobacco policy.
According to the Campaign's statement:
"As the United States and other countries negotiate a trade agreement that could impact efforts to reduce tobacco use worldwide, Philip Morris International is trying to buy access and influence by sponsoring an exclusive corporate reception Friday in Washington, DC, that will be attended by top trade and other officials from the countries involved. We urge government officials not to attend this tobacco industry-sponsored reception and to negotiate a trade agreement that protects public health, not the tobacco industry. They should protect children and health around the world, not Philip Morris International, a company with a long history of targeting children, deceiving the public and opposing proven measures to reduce tobacco use and save lives."
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is that while the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is excoriating government officials for potentially just attending a corporate reception sponsored by Philip Morris International, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids itself participated in a secret negotiation with Philip Morris that resulted in a federal statute that drastically changed the nation's policy toward tobacco.
Thus, if the Campaign wishes to attack any organization for sitting down and negotiating tobacco policy with Philip Morris, it should begin the attack by blasting itself for being the worst example of doing exactly what it is decrying in its public statement.
The Campaign can, if it wants, argue that the negotiation with Philip Morris led to a positive achievement (I disagree vehemently, as my readers well know). Nevertheless, it stands as a hypocrite if it attacks others for merely attending a corporate reception sponsored by Philip Morris when the Campaign actually sat down and negotiated an entire national tobacco policy with the same company.
Why did the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids negotiate national tobacco policy with a company that it says has "a long history of targeting children, deceiving the public and opposing proven measures to reduce tobacco use and save lives."
Moreover, if Philip Morris has a long history of opposing proven measures to reduce tobacco use and save lives, then I guess we can safely conclude that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is not one of them. After all, Philip Morris strongly supported the Tobacco Act. It must, then, not be a measure that will reduce tobacco use and save lives.
It seems to me that the Campaign is caught between a rock and a hard place. If it admits that negotiating with Philip Morris is appropriate as long as the outcome is a good one for public health, then it has no business berating the government for attending a corporate reception sponsored by the tobacco company. If it believes, instead, that negotiating health policy with Philip Morris is inappropriate, then it should turn its attention to itself and criticize itself for doing exactly that.