Monday, May 19, 2003

Foreign Policy: A Coalition of the (Constitutionally) Unwilling

The Bush administration is now backing an international anti-tobacco treaty:

The announcement represented an about-face for the administration, which said in March it could not accept several key provisions of the draft accord related to packaging, labeling, advertising and sales, among other things.

Formally called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first treaty on health seeks to tackle the consequences of tobacco use with measures ranging from a halt in advertising to a crackdown on smuggling and a ban on cigarette sales to minors.

The United States, along with Germany, had opposed a clause to ban advertising, saying it would violate constitutional guarantees to free speech.

Asked whether he would push for any changes to the pact, [HHS Secretary Tommy] Thompson said, "No, we're not going to seek any changes or any reservations."

Interestingly, Secretary Thompson never said his initial constitutional reservations were unjustified, only that the U.S. wouldn't press the issue for the sake of preserving the treaty. The message I take from that is that the Bush administration is putting international popularity ahead of constitutional principle. That's an interesting reversal from the administration's war policy.

Ironically, this also sounds like the peer pressure argument that teenagers use to get their friends to smoke: You know it's wrong, but everyone else is doing it, so why don't you give it a try?

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