Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Confronting the tobacco epidemic in a new era of trade and investment liberalization

World Health Organization

Publication details

Number of pages: 69
Publication date: 2012
Languages: English, Spanish
ISBN: 978 92 4 150372 3



In 2001, the World Health Organization Tobacco Free Initiative published a landmark paper entitled Confronting the tobacco epidemic in an era of trade liberalization. The paper, authored by Douglas Bettcher et al., suggested that trade liberalization and foreign direct investment in the tobacco sector may stimulate demand for tobacco products. The paper also identified a risk that rules in trade agreements governing nontariff barriers to trade (such as regulatory measures) could limit the autonomy of States to implement effective tobacco control measures. More than 10 years after the paper by Bettcher et al., this publication, entitled Confronting the tobacco epidemic in a new era of trade and investment liberalization, aims to provide an update on the issues in view of a significantly altered landscape of international law relevant to trade and tobacco control since 2001.

The coming into force of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003 has had significant implications for trade and investment disputes. Recent controversies have also brought the impact of trade rules on tobacco control back into the forefront of the nexus between trade and public health. In light of these, among other, issues, this paper is intended to expand upon and update the 2001 paper elaborating the links between tobacco control and international trade. In this regard, this paper provides an update of the links between trade and investment liberalization and tobacco control and outlines two ways in which the tobacco industry has sought to exploit trade and investment agreements. Furthermore, this paper examines the challenges that trade and investment agreements continue to pose for tobacco control at the domestic level and outlines challenges faced by governments in coordinating their public health policies with their trade and investment policies.

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