Clearing the Smoke, Globally

Years of antismoking activism in the United States have educated most Americans about the foolishness of the tobacco habit. It's that public education success that the US should be exporting to the world, launching programs to help people make responsible choices.

Instead, Washington, too often, does what it can to open overseas markets to American cigarettes. The latest evidence of this was a Bush administration move last month to persuade South Korea to halt plans to raise its tariffs on imported cigarettes by 40 percent. The tariff hike would have protected South Korea's domestic cigarette makers, but it might also have cut cigarette consumption a bit.

For Washington to simply pursue business as usual, making tobacco part of its free-trade agenda, has more than a whiff of hypocrisy. It underscores the continued potency of the tobacco industry, still a major contributor to political campaigns.

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Tobacco products should not be treated like normal products in international trade. A global educational effort, to help more people drop the habit or not take it up, is what's needed.

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