Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent out several letters to governments and companies across the world. These letters contained the Chamber’s efforts to curtail anti-smoking measures adopted by governments and agencies in several countries. When the reports of this global lobbying reached CVS Health Corporation, the company decided to resign from the Chamber.
David R. Palombi, the Senior Vice President of CVS, admitted that the company was surprised by the Chamber’s decision. He insisted that CVS’s purpose was to help people attain better health and use of tobacco was in direct conflict with that. In light of the Chamber’s recent decisions, CVS couldn’t remain a member of the organization.
Chamber’s Stance against Antismoking Laws
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its wide network of international affiliates made a conscious effort to target restrictions on smoking in public spaces, bans on menthol and slim cigarettes, excise tax increases, graphic warning labels and advertising restrictions. According to the New York Times, they specifically focused on developing countries.
This stance puts the Chamber in direct conflict with World Health Organization, which has been actively trying to curb the use of tobacco all over the world. For several years now, the Chamber has been aggressively lobbying against the restrictions on tobacco use. This highlights the organization’s historically strong ties with the powerful tobacco industry.
However, this campaign counteracts the efforts made by some of the organization’s members. There are four health-care companies that serve on its board, Anthem, the Steward Health Care System of Boston, the Health Care Service Corporation and the Indiana University Health System. All of them actively support antismoking programs.
When questioned, the Chamber defended in their actions. They insisted that they were merely safeguarding the business interests of its members. The statement called the recent revelations, “a concentrated misinformation campaign.” The organization made it clear that they didn’t support smoking and wanted people to quit the habit. They were, however, keen on protecting the intellectual property rights and trademarks of all products that were legal to sell.
The CVS resignation is the latest in a long line of adverse consequences of the Chamber’s campaign. Just last week, several Senate Democrats condemned the lobbying, calling it craven and unconscionable.
Even Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group commented on Twitter that the chamber was making a mistake and was on the wrong side of history. All major healthcare companies in the Chamber have explicitly stated that they would continue to oppose smoking and they don’t support the Chamber’s recent efforts.