Ten years after President Clinton's initiative to avert a global epidemic of tobacco-related disease, smoking is down in the United States but rising fast in poor countries, where Washington turns a blind eye to aggressive cigarette marketing banned at home.
My guest on this show is Thomas Bollyky, a visiting fellow here at CGD. Tom recently marked the 10th anniversary of Clinton’s order with articles in Foreign Policy and the Journal of the American Medical Association about how U.S. efforts to combat the global tobacco epidemic have remained modest, while tobacco companies have aggressively expanded markets for their products and opposed tobacco control and prevention programs in low- and middle-income countries.
Tom tells me that people in poor countries historically have not been big smokers but in the past ten years, that has changed dramatically. Tobacco companies, eager to expand their customer base outside the heavily regulated markets of rich countries, are employing an arsenal of new tactics to get developing countries hooked. The toll isn’t only in the five million lives lost each year, but also in a drag on poverty-reducing economic growth:
“The World Economic Forum has estimated that non-communicable diseases…for which tobacco is [a]…leading risk factor, is a greater threat to global economic development than fiscal crises, natural disasters, transnational crime, and infectious disease,” Tom says. He offers practical suggestions for the United States to begin to follow through on President Clinton’s executive order, many that utilize existing programs and won’t cost Americans a dime.
Listen to this week’s Wonkcast to learn more of Tom Bollyky’s take on global tobacco control.
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My thanks to Wren Elhai for his production assistance on the Wonkcast recording and to Will McKitterick for drafting this blog post.