Its hard to be sympathetic to Big Tobacco, but that is exactly what they want- sympathy. Specifically, they want President Obama to challenge the Canadian ban on candy flavored cigarettes and small cigars. The argument is that Canada's ban on candy flavored tobacco violates WTO (World Trade Organization) obligations. What Big Tobacco fails to mention is that their interference in this matter violates the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). While the US is not signed on, as of yet, Canada is. The FCTC states that the tobacco industry must not interfere with the setting of health policy. Attempting to frame this as a trade issue misses the point entirely. Canada set forth this policy as part of their health agenda and while the ban restricts imports, the overall goal is to improve the health of the citizens of Canada.
They are trying to capitalize on a down economy and say that they provide jobs for growers of tobacco in the US. They have gone so far as to enlist a senator from a tobacco state to block the nomination of the deputy US Trade Representative.
This issue raises some important questions:
- While there might be jobs in growing tobacco, are these jobs that contribute to the health and well-being of the population?
- Would farmers in tobacco states be best served by growing vegetables for the communities, instead of tobacco?