Bloomberg accuses Obama of caving to Big Tobacco

Bloomberg endorsed Obama for reelection last year, largely due to the president’s effort to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system. Bloomberg is known for his controversial public health endeavors, in particular his longtime crusade to restrict smoking and a proposal to limit the sale of sugary drinks in New York City.

The “safe harbor” provision would have made it difficult for the tobacco industry to undermine domestic anti-smoking efforts under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

Reports last week that Obama is backing away from the effort sparked outrage among public-health groups.

Critics say the USTR has opted for weaker language that merely restates existing international trade policy recognizing countries’ authority to enact health and safety measures.

Bloomberg condemned the new language as “weak half-measures at best that will not protect American law – and the laws of other countries – from being usurped by the tobacco industry, which is increasingly using trade and investment agreements to challenge domestic tobacco control measures.”

Bloomberg pointed to New York City’s tobacco policies, which he called “some of the most comprehensive tobacco policies in the world.” He wrote that due to these measures, the smoking rate among adult has fallen by nearly one-third, and among high school students it has been cut in half.

If the trade pact proceeds without the safe harbor provision, Bloomberg wrote, “this progress will be jeopardized, a devastating setback for the global effort to reduce tobacco use." 

“A deal that sells out our national commitment to public health, and forfeits our sovereign authority over our tobacco laws, does not merit the support of Mr. Obama; of the Senate, which would have to ratify it; or of the American people,” Bloomberg wrote.