CVS quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce over CoC’s campaign against anti-smoking laws

U.S. chamber graphic

Great story, I loved this.

CVS Health, which gained notoriety  in recent months for removing all tobacco products from its chain of drug stores, has now left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because that organization is embroiled in a lobbying campaign worldwide against anti-smoking laws.

This is a growing issue in the battle against the spread of tobacco worldwide. Something that I didn’t pay that much attention to until John Oliver did an epic 18-minute rant about it on his show earlier this year.

Big Tobacco has in many ways given up fighting anti-smoking laws in the U.S. and much of the West. However, it is taking the fight to the Third World, where smaller countries don’t have the financial resources to hold their own against Big Tobacco. The tobacco is fighting laws against tobacco marketing and packaging in countries ranging from Australia to Uruguay. While Australia kicked Big Tobacco’s butt (pun intended) over the issue of plain packaging of tobacco products, little countries like Uruguay and Togo which are trying to restrict tobacco marketing in their countries simply can’t go up against the tobacco industry’s wealth.

CVS Health

Enter the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has become an increasingly right-wing entity over the past several years. The Chamber and its president Thomas Donohue are also fighting these small countries on behalf of Big Tobacco. Here is a list of some of the letters they have written supporting the tobacco industry to countries such as Ireland, Uruguay and New Zealand.

From a New York Times article:

We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” David R. Palombi, a senior vice president at the company, said in a statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.”

In its defence, the Chamber responded:

“It’s unfortunate that a concerted misinformation campaign about the U.S. Chamber’s position on smoking has resulted in a company leaving our organization.

“To be clear, the chamber does not support smoking and wants people to quit. At the same time, we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment.”

However, if the Chamber is just trying to protect trademarks of tobacco companies, then why is it fighting smoking bans? That’s got nothing to do with trademarks.

According to the New York Times:

The chamber has not said why it has opposed public health steps like restricting smoking in public places, which it called an “extreme” measure when it was proposed in Moldova.

CVS is not the only entity taking the Chamber to task. Others include Sens. Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren, billionaire Richard Branson and the World Health Organization.

From the Times:

Last week, seven Senate Democrats, including Richard Blumenthal, Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren, called the chamber’s tobacco lobbying “craven and unconscionable,” adding that “member companies should be concerned that their good name is sullied in efforts to strike down public health protections worldwide.”

Richard Branson, the billionaire British entrepreneur, said on Twitter that the chamber was on “the wrong side of history.” And on Tuesday, the head of the W.H.O. weighed in, assailing the chamber over its lobbying practices.

“By lobbying against well-established, widely accepted and evidence-based tobacco control public health policies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce undermines its own credibility on other issues,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., said in a statement on Tuesday. “So long as tobacco companies continue to be influential members of the chamber, legitimate businesses will be tarred with the same brush.”

Good on you, CVS, for highlighting what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is doing and putting the spotlight on its sleazy lobbying on behalf of the tobacco industry.

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