Press Release by Congresswoman Pelosi

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

At the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Briefing on the International Aspects of U.S. Tobacco Policy

March 31, 1998

I am very pleased to be here with you at the Foreign Press Center today. 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.

So it is hard to overstate the importance of the issue we have come together to discuss. Our country has finally decided we can no longer glamorize tobacco to our children. Now we have to ask the question: are we willing to aggressively market tobacco overseas, to other people's children?

Today's talks will appropriately focus on policy, on educational strategies, on intergovernmental cooperation. The foundation for this discussion has to do with moral responsibility. It is our responsibility to enact international tobacco controls because, having seen the health costs which result from tobacco, we cannot turn away from the implications for the future of world health.

I am honored to share the podium with leaders in the battle to prevent international tobacco marketing to children. My colleague, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, is a leader in the congress on this issue. Dr. Witold Zatonski has witnessed first hand the effects of the international tobacco marketing machine. Bill Novelli has been a fighter on tobacco for many years. Mark Palmer was a respected ambassador. He is now a respected advocate on this issue.

As a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Foreign Operations, I work with my colleagues to fund needed international health and economic development programs. But if we do not act to control international tobacco advertising and promotion to young people, the gains we expect from those programs will all be undermined. It is disingenuous to support health promotion and remain blind to the health impacts of growing tobacco use.

By the year 2025, it is expected that 10 million people will die annually from tobacco and that seven out of ten of these deaths will occur in developing countries. Already, every day nearly 10,000 people in the world die as a result of tobacco, and tobacco causes about 3.5 million deaths a year. In many countries around the world, most people are not aware of the dangers of tobacco, and there are scarce funds available to counteract aggressive industry advertising.

By insisting on international tobacco education, we are not attempting to dictate policy to other countries. Rather, because the united states exported 240 billion cigarettes last year, we have a responsibility to also export the public health tools which are appropriate in our own country -- warning labels, education campaigns, and reasonable limits on tobacco promotion to young people.

Congress is poised to act on an issue which will affect the health status of millions in the united states. Whatever tobacco bill is passed must not legislate a double standard for children around the world.

I have been told that Senator Hollings will offer an amendment tomorrow to strike all of the international provisions now in Senator McCain's Commerce Committee bill. We need to fight to retain these provisions in tobacco legislation. Millions of lives are at stake.

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