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The Impact of Trade Agreements on Domestic Health Regulation

Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
Investigator(s): Eric Crosbie, M.A.
Award Cycle: 2015 (Cycle 24) Grant #: 24DT-0003 Award: $29,293
Subject Area: Industry Influence/Policy
Award Type: Dissertation Awards

Initial Award Abstract

This project proposes to enhance the effectiveness of tobacco control efforts in California by examining international trade challenges that may undermine the implementation of progressive and innovative domestic public health policies.  By doing so, this project aims to help prevent tobacco use and reduce tobacco-related illness and deaths in the state of California. This innovative and interdisciplinary research begins to address tobacco-related issues in California from an international perspective, adopting numerous qualitative methods for triangulation, combining archival research with interviews with policy-makers and advocates in an in-depth qualitative comparative analysis of multiple case studies.

In the field of tobacco, a key tobacco industry strategy to block public health policies at the local level is preemption, in which the tobacco industry secures legislation removing authority from subordinate jurisdictions where tobacco companies are weak, and transfer it to jurisdictions where they are strong. Traditionally preemption has occurred domestically as the tobacco industry has preempted strong state tobacco control laws with weak national laws, and strong local laws with weak state laws.  However international agreements, particularly trade agreements, are constraining national and local-level policymaking and thus could serve as a new form of global preemption. Trade agreements are alarming because they contain legal provisions that allow transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) to directly sue national and subnational governments over regulations that may constitute a violation in business investments. For example, in 2008 and 2012, Uruguay and Australia respectively implemented innovative cigarette package health warning labels that were challenged by TTCs under international trade agreements.  As a result, innovators in tobacco control policymaking, such as the state of California, should be aware of the ways in which international agreements may lead to challenges of local-level policies. 

The proposed research thus addresses TRDRP's Research Priority 3 by examining the regulation of tobacco at the local, state, and national level.  Additionally, it addresses TRDRP's Research Priority 5, to assess and limit the influence of the tobacco industry.