Trade and Health Issues:

Dichotomy Between U.S. Tobacco Export Policy and Antismoking Initiatives

NSIAD-90-190: Published: May 15, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 5, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the U.S. government's role in assisting the export of tobacco and tobacco products; and (2) the health implications of tobacco exporting activities.

GAO found that: (1) U.S. cigarette companies faced foreign-imposed trade barriers in marketing tobacco, and the U.S. government provided assistance in removing those barriers; (2) in 1989, the U.S. tobacco trade surplus doubled, to $4.3 billion; (3) U.S. tobacco growers greatly benefited from the cigarette export increase; (4) there were few incidents where U.S. companies violated cigarette trade agreements and industry codes; (5) over the past 25 years, Congress has enacted a number of laws concerning the health hazards of cigarettes; (6) the Overseas Private Investment Corporation denied assistance to U.S. cigarette companies wishing to promote tobacco use overseas, because of smoking health hazards; (7) the U.S. did not consider removing tobacco trade barriers during recent trade negotiations with four Asian countries, and there seemed to be no long-term adverse implications for U.S. relations with those countries; (8) the prevalence of smoking in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea was higher than in the United States, resulting in the establishment of anti-smoking movements in those countries; (9) while the smoking rate in Japan had declined, cigarette consumption in Taiwan and South Korea had increased since the removal of U.S. cigarette export barriers; and (10) the opening of Asian cigarette markets, cigarette advertising, and changing socioeconomic factors contributed to increased cigarette use in certain Asian countries.

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