CVS Quits US Chamber of Commerce over Tobacco

The reaction against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s advocacy for the global tobacco industry is growing, first reported last week in the New York Times.

Today, the Times reported that CVS Health Corporation announced that it is quitting the U.S. Chamber because of their work around the world in fighting restrictions on tobacco and smoking.  This follows CVS’s major step last year discontinuing tobacco product sales in all its stores.  Double hurray for CVS!smoking

We are still waiting to see whether Boston’s Steward Health Care System and its CEO Ralph de la Torre, will turn their words into action.  Last week, a Steward spokesperson said: “If the chamber is in fact advocating for increased smoking, we do not agree with them on this public health issue.”  Now that the Chamber’s advocacy is clear, it’s time to go beyond words — as Paul Levy makes clear.

The flak against the Chamber is going global, as Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, made clear this week:

“By lobbying against well-established, widely accepted and evidence-based tobacco control public health policies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce undermines its own credibility on other issues … So long as tobacco companies continue to be influential members of the chamber, legitimate businesses will be tarred with the same brush.”

The Chamber is feeling the heat and beginning to lash out against those taking them to task for the deathly advocacy.  Here’s part of their recent statement: “It’s unfortunate that a concerted misinformation campaign about the U.S. Chamber’s position on smoking has resulted in a company leaving our organization.”

If the Chamber wants any legitimacy on this issue, step number one — come clean on how much money you have taken from tobacco companies over the past 20 years. Put it all on the table without delay.  Otherwise — you have no credibility.

The U.S. Chamber of Cancer

I recall sitting in my office in the U.S. Senate’s Hart Office Building in DC between 2008 and 2010 with my desk TV always turned onto one of the cable news channels when the Senate was not in session.  Incessantly, I saw TV ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce speaking as the “voice of small business” attacking Democratic efforts to achieve national health reform and universal coverage because of the harm it would cause small business.

Only later, in 2011, did we learn that the entire tab for that endless advertising campaign was paid for by major U.S. health insurance companies and their trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) to the tune of more than $100 million in direct donations.  Later, I had the chance to ask AHIP President Karen Ignagni (who recently stepped down) why these donations had never been disclosed.  “Because no one ever asked us,” she replied.

Today, the New York Times reports a devastating story about the role the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is playing in advancing the interests of the global tobacco industry in thwarting tobacco regulation and smoking prevention efforts in nations all around the globe:

“From Ukraine to Uruguay, Moldova to the Philippines, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its foreign affiliates have become the hammer for the tobacco industry, engaging in a worldwide effort to fight antismoking laws of all kinds, according to interviews with government ministers, lobbyists, lawmakers and public health groups in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States.”

Continue reading “The U.S. Chamber of Cancer”