Smoking and Brexit

Leaving the EU without a deal may mean that we have to allow tobacco advertising again in the UK.

Now I’m not a Brexit expert, nor am I an expert on World trade organisation rules and I am a remainer. But this is what I read today.

The 1974 Trade Act in the United States of America contained the provision for the US President to slap retaliatory tariffs on foreign products if the country that produces them discriminates against American companies.  This is called section 301.

The U.S. Trade representative threatened South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and other countries on the Pacific Rim with a section 301 action unless they allowed Marlboro and others to advertise cigarettes. This was despite the fact that no one else was allowed to advertise tobacco in those countries.

Faced with U.S. pressure they buckled. Smoking by male teenagers in the first year of advertising in South Korea rose from 18% to 30%. For female teenagers it rose from 2% to 9%. The trend was the same in the other countries.

If we leave Europe without a deal, as I understand it, we then operate under World Trade Organisation rules.  So, unless the rules have changed, we could be forced to allow tobacco advertising here, if the U.S. president decided to make us. Would Trump do that?

And what other products could this apply to? It could mean a whole new “special relationship” between the UK and US.

Do tell me if I’m wrong.

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