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TRUMP AND TOBACCO

As Tobacco Reporter’s January 2017 issue went to press, the world was preparing to enter uncharted waters with the inauguration, on Jan. 20, of the most unconventional U.S. president in recent history, Donald Trump.

America’s incoming chief executive appears to have been elected for his promise to shake things up; throughout his campaign and after, Trump delighted in breaking conventions, questioning long-held beliefs about the economy, diplomacy and military alliances.

What this means for tobacco remains unclear. A life-time nonsmoker, the president-elect has said little about the topic, but many in the industry are encouraged by his desire to deregulate. Trump has vowed to repeal a whopping 70 percent of regulations introduced during the term of his predecessor. With luck, the industry must be thinking, that will include the Food & Drug Administration’s much-maligned “deeming regulations.”

On the flip side, the new president’s protectionist instincts bode ill for an industry as international as tobacco. A typical cigarette contains leaf and other raw materials from multiple countries. The erection of trade barriers would impose nonvalue-added cost that would likely have to be passed on to consumers. Hefty tariffs on Chinese imports, promised by Trump, would affect the e-cigarette industry, as China continues to manufacture the lion’s share of vapor hardware.

Of course, it remains to be seen which of Trump’s words will be put into action. The president-elect has proved remarkably ready to shift priorities when expedient—witness, for example, the ease with which he abandoned his pledge to prosecute his rival, Hillary Clinton, after the election.

Predicting the future is a risky endeavor at the best of times; with an actor as unpredictable as Trump it is virtually impossible. Nonetheless, an astute observer should be able to detect among the noise some meaningful patterns. In this issue, Patrick Basham, director of the Democracy Institute, host of the Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum (GTNF) and a keen spectator of U.S. politics, shares his thoughts about the impact of the Trump presidency on our industries.

While not everybody will agree with his views, Basham has a strong record when it comes to making predictions. During the GTNF field trip, in September 2016, he forecast a Trump victory when most commentators were still betting on Clinton. Clearly, when formulating its strategy for the next four years, the industry could do worse than to contemplate Basham’s insights. Please turn to page 14 of our print edition to read his take on tobaccco under Trump.

The January 2017 digital edition will be uploaded shortly. Click here to read the December 2016 digital edition

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