By Peter Galuszka

Virginia’s business lobby is blasting President Barack Obama for balking at pushing U.S. grown tobacco leaf in upcoming trade talks involving Pacific Rim nations.

Barry E. DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, complains that Obama is “targeting tobacco” by trying to leave it out of upcoming talks involving the Trans-Pacific Partnership involving Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the U.S.

Doing so, writes Duval, “is a step in the wrong direction and is cause for serious concern.”

What, actually, is a step in the wrong direction and a cause for serious concern is DuVal’s disingenuity about the issue. The fact is, according to the World Health Organization, tobacco killed 100 million in the last century globally and could kill up to 1 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) in this century.

“Nearly 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers live in low and middle income countries,” according to the WHO.  Thus, the countries where Virginia’s leaf exports go are not well equipped to handle the tremendous health toll on their populations from smoking. They do not have the funds to treat lung cancer or various other lung diseases, especially in countries where ignorance about the fatal consequences runs high.

Duvall dodges the issue. “To be clear, this will not reduce smoking or improve public health in any measurable way and will only punish Virginia farmers by shutting them out of the global market.”

Hot flash to Mr. DuVal. Virginia’s tobacco growers have been in serious decline for years, especially since changes in tobacco regulation took away the federal quota system that made tobacco growing four times as profitable as growing useful crops like corn or soybeans. This happened roughly a decade ago, but maybe it is news to DuVal.

Another dirty little secret is why Philip Morris USA and Altria just happened to relocate from New York to Richmond a few years back. A mass of lawsuits on health issues convinced Philip Morris to split itself into two firms.

One was to go to Richmond and urge people not to buy its products while selling them anyway. Look at its Website if you don’t believe me.

The other part, Philip Morris International, moved to Switzerland where, according to The Wall Street Journal, it ruthlessly markets higher nicotine and tar products to unsuspecting, low income people in places such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, China and India.

DuVal’s argument seems to be that Virginian’s should sell deadly products overseas because, hey, it’s legal and it won’t matter much anyway regarding health concerns. That’s rather cynical.

Obama should hold firm on the issue when his representatives meet in Australia next month. If Virginia’s growers don’t like it, maybe they should consider switching their crops to more useful ones if they haven’t already.

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5 responses to “Why Tobacco Exports Are Wrong”

  1. Peter, you make some good points. If smoking is a bad idea here, it’s a bad idea everywhere. While I don’t think the U.S. has any business trying to stop or discourage smoking in other nations, the federal government should not be promoting the sale of tobacco around the world. Let the tobacco companies do their own marketing.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    ” … he federal government should not be promoting the sale of tobacco around the world …”.

    TMT – Barry DuVal is not employed by the federal government. He is the CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

    Virginia has the 49th lowest tax on cigarettes in the United States.

    As usual, Virginia stands nearly alone in its willingness to provide succor to tobacco companies and to minimize the taxes on those “known to be deadly” products.

    North Carolina once faced the same problem of a declining tobacco based future in that state. Rather than cling to the obviously failing idea of an economy built on tobacco the NC state legislature and business leaders began the long process of building Research Triangle Park.

    What has our Clown Show done?


  3. Gee, I think the kid smoking the cigarette is kind of cute.

  4. Actually, he looks very sophisticated for a 2-year-old.

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    What are you? A pedophile?

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