Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Representative Pelosi Statement on "Big Tobacco's Assault on Global Health

April 29, 2002

Thank you to the San Francisco Tobacco Free Coalition for hosting this forum on "Big Tobacco's Assault on Global Health." I wish I could be here tonight but I had to be in Washington on Congressional business.

It is an honor to work with such courageous advocates for public health as Eva Krlikova from Prague and Mary Assunta of Penang.

The international health costs of tobacco promotion and use are staggering. Of the six billion the people alive in the world today, tobacco is expected to kill 500 million, or nearly 10 percent of those living today. That includes more than 200 million of today's children and teenagers. According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2025, 10 million people will die annually from tobacco, and seven out of 10 of these deaths will occur in developing countries.

U.S. tobacco companies play a major role in spreading this death. They see the international market as their focus for expansion. The U.S. is the world's number one exporter of cigarettes -- U.S. companies supply nearly six trillion cigarettes, or one-fifth of all the cigarettes smoked around the world.

Women and children are primary targets of the U.S. tobacco industry's marketing. Well-crafted marketing campaigns lure women and girls into starting a deadly habit. A quarter billion women around the world will die of tobacco use over a generation.

Women throughout the world need to know the truth: there's nothing sexy or sophisticated about dying from lung cancer.

While we continue to work to protect our own children from the dangers of tobacco, we must stop exporting death to children overseas. The "Marlboro Man" is not a suitable ambassador for the United States, but he may be the most visible representative we are presenting to young people all over the world. We can and must set a better example.

Our country's participation in the negotiations of the International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control must demonstrate that we value the health of people around the world.

We must insist on international tobacco education. Because we export the cigarettes that cause this death and disease, we have a responsibility to also export the public health tools that are appropriate in our own country - warning labels, education campaigns and limits on tobacco promotion to young people. We should be exporting tobacco prevention and control expertise, not cigarettes.

Thank you for your vigilance in protecting the lives of people around the world from the death sentence of tobacco use. I pledge to continue the fight in Congress to push for international provisions in tobacco legislation.