Smoke and mirrors by US? Anti-tobacco language still a no-show in trade treaty

A combination photo shows illustrations obtained by Reuters of some of the proposed models of cigarettes packs in this April 7, 2011 file photo. Australia's highest court will rule on the world's toughest anti-cigarette marketing laws on August 15, 2012 in what has become a major test case for global tobacco companies in their fight against restrictions on the sale of their products. REUTERS/Department Of Health/Handout/Files (AUSTRALIA - Tags: HEALTH POLITICS BUSINESS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS Handout / Reuters
Pack of Marlboro Menthol in Australia. As of Dec. 1, all cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging with graphic warnings covering 75 percent of the front and 90 percent of the back of the pack. Canadian Cancer Society

The United States isn’t saying whether it still backs an effort to prevent cigarette makers from invoking trade treaties to block other countries’ strong anti-smoking rules, according to a report Tuesday.

FairWarning, a nonprofit public-interest journalism site, reported that the Obama administration has come under heavy attack from tobacco state lawmakers and business groups since it announced 15 months ago that it wanted to include specific language in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to enable countries to enact tough rules to reduce smoking. A particular battleground has been Australia, which requires graphic language and images on cigarette packs.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other business groups said that singling out tobacco products could lead to exceptions for other products.

FairWarning first reported on the dispute in November in a story that appeared on NBC Investigates.

After eight negotiating rounds for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, U.S. officials still haven’t presented the proposal, FairWarning reported. An official in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said “stakeholder input” was still being considered.

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