3. Should the U.S. government support U.S. tobacco company interests abroad?
In 1986, tobacco companies reminded the country that, “Tobacco is intimately and historically associated with American diplomacy.” Shortly after, the relationship between the country and Big Tobacco changed with the Clinton Administration. During his time as president, Clinton worked to eliminate aggressive promotion of tobacco overseas by the Office of the US Trade Representative. In 1993, an interagency task force was formed to formulate a coherent tobacco policy. However, while there has been some progress on the domestic front, US policy on tobacco oversees has not made much headway.
Today, the only laws that prohibit US government assistance to overseas tobacco interests are in the form of amendments to the Agriculture and Commerce-State-Justice appropriations act. This act is subject to the will of Congress and the current President. Restrictions allow for government aid to tobacco companies in some international trade disputes, and no law prohibits promotion of tobacco as a cash crop in overseas aid programs. The tobacco companies reap benefits from these programs as the supply of tobacco is increased for major purchasers, the majority of whom are American.
Since 1993, the Agriculture Department has been banned from promoting the sale or export of tobacco products. In 1998, Congress expanded the prohibition on US government aid to tobacco abroad with an amendment to an appropriations bill for the Commerce, State, and Justice departments named the Doggett Amendment. Senator John McCain is quoted as saying, “It bothers me that we want to stop American kids from smoking, yet we don’t seem to have the same degree of concern about Asian or African kids.” This statement drives home the sentiment against the country supporting tobacco company interests outside of the US. Unfortunately, tobacco companies succeeded in gaining an exception to this amendment. In...
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