Chest Conference at Bangkok

Onе event at the XI Asia Pacific Congress on Diseases of the Chest, held in Bangkok in November, 1989 was the decision that this would be a “smoke free” meeting. This announcement received full cooperation from the participants, as well as from over 50 pharmaceutical company personnel who dis­played their products. By coincidence, the headline in an English language Bangkok newspaper on Novem­ber 20 reported that the United States is continuing to pressure Thailand to comply with the demand to allow import of American cigarettes. The background for this is that the United States Cigarette Export Association (USCEA) petitioned the United States government, through its Trade Representative Office (USTR) and announced in May, 1989 that it would initiate an investigation, under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, into alleged “unfair trade practices” be­cause of Thailand’s ban on the import of foreign cigarettes. If no settlement is reached by May, 1990 regarding the lifting of the import ban and repeal of the Thai law banning all forms of cigarette advertising, Thailand could face punitive trade retaliation by the United States.

Led by the Antismoking Coalition, health groups in the US have come out in full force to support Thailand in its resistance of this trade threat as well as the attempt to urge the USTR to reject the USCEA’s petition. At the public hearing on the Thai case held in Washington, D.C. in September, representatives from the US cigarette industry argued that the ciga­rette issue is purely a “trade” matter. They claimed that US cigarettes are “the world standard of excel­lence.” These products “have been a bright spot in the United States trade picture and they helped to reduce the US trade deficit.”

Representatives from health groups as well as several congressmen argued that the US governments policy of assisting the US cigarette industry to gain market access abroad would result in promotion of cigarette smoking worldwide and hamper smoking control ef­forts, particularly in developing countries with limited resources and where knowledge of the health hazard from cigarette smoking has not yet been widely disseminated. While the US had been successful in reducing cigarette consumption among its own citi­zens, promotion of US cigarette sales in other countries is certain to hurt America’s image, and might create a backlash that would harm export efforts of other American products. Viagra Super Active

Is it ethical for the US to promote cigarette sales overseas when the US government is waging a war against illicit drugs? The former American Surgeon General has officially declared that cigarettes are addictive and no less harmful than cocaine or opiates. The fact that many American health groups came out strongly to oppose the US governments cigarette export policy should be noted by lawmakers. They are usually one of the last groups to challenge any trade issue. Several US Congressmen had voiced their suspicion that the USTR may have given preferential treatment to the powerful American cigarette industry in its efforts to pry open foreign markets and help them to obtain concessions in advertising their prod­ucts abroad. The USCEA has openly praised the USTR’s role in using section 301 of the Trade Act to successfully gain market access in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. In the case of Thailand, the USTR probed the level of commitment of the Thai govern­ment to curb cigarette consumption. If Thailand does not have a record of a serious antismoking campaign, then Thailand’s argument to keep the market closed would carry little weight and the USTR would be justified in considering this purely a trade issue.