Blumenthal, Durbin, Senate Colleagues, Urge US Chamber to Cease Efforts to Undermine Anti-Smoking Public-Health Measures

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) led a letter with their colleagues Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to reconsider and refocus its efforts away from undermining global anti-smoking measures. Following reports of the Chamber’s lobbying to defeat anti-smoking regulations across the globe, the Senators wrote to Chamber President Tom Donahue citing the severe risk their efforts pose to worldwide public health and condemned the Chamber for using its name and power to stymie countries’ efforts to enforce life-saving tobacco restrictions.

The Chamber’s actions to undermine public-health measures directed at reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco products are a serious threat to people around the world,” the Senators wrote. “We urge you to reconsider and to refocus your efforts in a more positive direction.”

For the Chamber to use its international clout to fight so ardently against regulations of dangerous tobacco products is contrary to United States foreign policy and global health goals. As CVS Health has shown, protecting public health is good business, and the Chamber’s actions are antithetical to good corporate citizenship. Countries seeking to preserve the health and safety of their citizens and reduce tobacco-related deaths should not be stymied or intimidated by an outside lobbying force – especially one that represents many American businesses.”

Your response to The New York Times report – stating that the Chamber simply seeks to ‘uphold intellectual property rights, adhere to international commitments, and promulgate rules that are sensible and effective’ – provides scant comfort to the governments or populations that have been negatively impacted by the Chamber’s pro-tobacco advocacy. Policies such as plain-packaging requirements, graphic warnings, excise taxes, and other proven means of reducing tobacco-related deaths and illnesses should be allowed to proceed without interference from the Chamber. In light of tobacco’s well-documented and destructive effects, your assertions that these public-health measures should be combated because they somehow ‘undermine trademarks or brands’ are simply unfounded.

Full text of the letter can be viewed here and below: 

Dear President Donohue:

As United States Senators who have long fought to protect the health of our constituents, we were greatly disturbed to read in a recent New York Times article that your organization has been engaged in a global campaign to thwart critical health efforts to curb tobacco use. In light of the recent decision by CVS Health to end its membership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we urge you to reconsider the Chamber’s advocacy on behalf of the tobacco industry. For the Chamber to use its international clout to fight so ardently against regulations of dangerous tobacco products is contrary to United States foreign policy and global health goals. As CVS Health has shown, protecting public health is good business, and the Chamber’s actions are antithetical to good corporate citizenship.

Countries seeking to preserve the health and safety of their citizens and reduce tobacco-related deaths should not be stymied or intimidated by an outside lobbying force – especially one that represents many American businesses. Indeed, Chamber member companies should be concerned that their good names and the international business climate are being damaged because of your organization’s efforts. In particular, your hospital and health-insurer members should be alarmed that the Chamber’s advocacy could undermine their goals and worsen the health of millions. We are pleased to see that CVS Health has withdrawn its membership in the Chamber continuing its leadership in showing that protecting public health is good business.

Your response to the New York Times report – stating that the Chamber simply seeks to “uphold intellectual property rights, adhere to international commitments, and promulgate rules that are sensible and effective” – provides scant comfort to the governments or populations that have been negatively impacted by the Chamber’s pro-tobacco advocacy. Policies such as plain-packaging requirements, graphic warnings, excise taxes, and other proven means of reducing tobacco-related deaths and illnesses should be allowed to proceed without interference from the Chamber. In light of tobacco’s well-documented and destructive effects, your assertions that these public-health measures should be combated because they somehow “undermine trademarks or brands” are simply unfounded.

The Chamber’s actions to undermine public-health measures directed at reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco products are a serious threat to people around the world. We urge you to reconsider and to refocus your efforts in a more positive direction.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
United States Senate

RICHARD J. DURBIN
United States Senate

JACK REED
United States Senate

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE
United States Senate

SHERROD BROWN
United States Senate

AL FRANKEN
United States Senate

ELIZABETH WARREN
United States Senate

JEFFREY A. MERKLEY
United States Senate

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