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Attorney General Mills calls for trade deal to protect Maine’s anti-tobacco efforts
January 28, 2014
(AUGUSTA) Attorney General Janet T. Mills is troubled by a provision in a proposed international trade agreement that would negatively impact the ability of Maine and other states to protect the public health by regulating tobacco products. Attorney General Mills is calling on the United States Trade Representative to amend a provision that would treat tobacco products like any other product for sale. This provision could open state policies regulating tobacco products to challenge by other countries and ignores the devastating health affects tobacco has on Maine people.
AG Mills is concerned that a provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would treat tobacco like any other product could open the landmark 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement [MSA], or even Maine’s smoke-free workplace law, to challenge by other countries in a legal framework outside of the United States’ normal proceedings. The MSA and other state and federal laws place major restrictions on the ability of tobacco companies to market their products and authorize states to enact a number of regulations to impact the sale, taxation and use of tobacco products.
“The MSA severely limited the ability of Big Tobacco to market their deadly products to children in America,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “Maine has a strong record of protecting the public health by using a broad strategy to keep products out of the hands of kids and to shield people from second-hand smoke. Despite the great strides Maine has made in cutting smoking rates, too many kids and adults in Maine are impacted by tobacco. We cannot allow our ability to protect the public health to be undermined by a trade agreement.”
The American Lung Association’s 2014 State of Tobacco Control notes that 20.3% of Maine’s adults and 15.2% of Maine youth are smokers. Nearly 2,235 Maine residents die per year due to tobacco-related illness – including 744 smoking-attributable lung cancer deaths and 660 smoking-attributable respiratory disease deaths. Overall, the American Lung Association estimates that tobacco use costs Maine’s economy more than $1 billion a year.
Attorney General Mills joined 42 state attorneys general in sending the letter to Ambassador Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative responsible for negotiating the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. The Attorneys General expressed their collective opposition to any proposals that undermine the ability of states to regulate tobacco or that subject those regulations to challenge under standards and forums that would not be available under United States law.