Guest Column: Australian questions Manzullo’s stance on cigarette packaging in Australia
Editor’s note: Following is the text of an e-mail sent June 21 to The Rock River Times by Tom Betts of Australia. The text includes an e-mail sent May 27 to U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16).
As Betts indicates in his e-mail to our newspaper, he did not originally receive a response from Manzullo. However, The Rock River Times contacted Manzullo’s office for a response, and Manzullo’s spokesman, Rich Carter, issued a statement that is included after the text of Betts’ e-mail.
Following is the text of Betts’ e-mail to The Rock River Times:
I am forwarding you the e-mail below, which I sent to your local state representative, Donald Manzullo, four weeks ago. His office did not reply to it. I thought it might be in the public interest of your readership to know what sort of activities your elected representative is diverting his taxpayer-funded offices toward on behalf of tobacco companies overseas.
For reference, see stories such as http://www.australianews.com.au/story?cityid=d1de82e1-fce9-4f45-9541-79d83e888155&storyid=fc859cc2-1b2b-47c4-bdb4-c7337fe4ca27, where Manzullo’s activities are cited in the article.
Mr. Manzullo parrots the slogans of tobacco industry over here, claiming that the packaging idea won’t reduce the purchase of cigarettes. Yet, the mere fact that they are spending millions of dollars, including full-page newspaper ads, as well as approaching politicians overseas such as Mr. Manzullo, is confirmation that they DO know it will cut back on smoking, especially among youth, and that is why they are trying to stop the legislation.
Please publish excerpts of this e-mail or otherwise as you see fit. Thank you for your consideration.
Editor’s note: Following is Betts’ e-mail to Manzullo:
My father was born in Texas and died in Missouri. He died of emphysema from cigarette smoking.
I am currently living in Australia. I have an 18-year-old son who, despite being warned of smoking’s hazards by his parents, uncles and aunts, all of whom are non-smokers, has become addicted to nicotine after falling in with smoking co-workers at his first job as a kitchen hand at age 16. He is now 18. He has type 1 diabetes and his addiction will accelerate the decline in his eyesight, heart and kidney health, among other problems that diabetes, imposes on him. He wants to quit, but is finding it too difficult to break the addiction.
When I found out from the media over here that you have personally attempted to dissuade the democratically elected government of Australia from introducing further regulation of tobacco (through plain packaging laws), I was outraged.
I have little understanding of, or respect for, those who dedicate even one minute of their working lives to supporting the interests of an industry that kills millions prematurely worldwide, usually after long periods of pain and anguish, and which results in lost productivity and massive health care costs ($10 to $30 billion a year in Australia alone), not to mention emotional suffering of their many families.
Please stop and think what legacy you leave for your family, your three children, and for the public when you exert your talents toward such an unwholesome and destructive industry like cigarette manufacture.
Please don’t peddle the fair trade or intellectual property rights arguments because they don’t wash over here. Such arguments are straight from the British and American Tobacco Association’s PR department’s playbook. As a father and as a son, this issue is very important to me, and I won’t let this matter rest, but I would like to hear what motivated you to get involved in a fight you have no dog in.
I’m an open-minded person, but am perplexed by your involvement in this issue.
Editor’s note: Following is a statement from Rich Carter, Manzullo’s spokesman, in response to Betts’ e-mail:
Rep. Manzullo’s concerns with Australia’s plain packaging proposal have nothing to do with tobacco. Rep. Manzullo is no supporter of tobacco and has never accepted contributions from tobacco companies. The issue at hand is whether Australia is abrogating its obligations under international trade agreements to protect trademarks.
As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Rep. Manzullo is intimately involved with U.S.-Australia relations and in the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations. Patent protection is a huge issue. We are extremely concerned any time a nation tries to remove a trademark from an American product sold in a foreign country. Australia’s effort sets a terrible precedent for other nations to follow. And the World Trade Organization is concerned as well when countries violate these trademark policies. Imagine if the U.S. Congress suddenly told Foster’s Lager that it could no longer sell its beer in its patented 25.4-ounce “oil can” that Americans have known for generations because consumption of beer leads to drunk driving. For Rep. Manzullo, this is all about preserving American products and American jobs in the global marketplace and enforcing the rules of fair trade.
Editor’s note: Readers can contact Manzullo’s office by mail at 415 S. Mulford Road, Rockford, IL 61108; via phone at (815) 394-1231; or through his website at http://manzullo.house.gov/.
From the June 29-July 5, 2011 issue
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