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Electronic Cigarette Dispute in the Americas

A man poses for a picture, as he vapes at home

Case Overview

U.S. trade promotion and global health priorities come into conflict when Guatemala places restrictions on the importation of a new U.S.-made flavored e‑cigarette product that it claims deliberately targets minors.

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The Situation

The United States has long been a leader in global health and it is also a leader in global trade. While U.S. global health and trade interests are often mutually reinforcing, they can diverge, especially when it comes to U.S. exports of consumer products that contribute to increases of cancers, heart diseases, and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Although the United States has a policy against promoting the export of U.S. tobacco products, tensions continue to arise over how to implement that policy in trade disputes and negotiations. New products in the tobacco industry such as electronic cigarettes have brought new challenges in striking a balance between U.S. trade and global health priorities.

When a U.S. tobacco company complains that Guatemala is unfairly discriminating against the importation of its fruit-flavored e-cigarette product, the United States needs to decide how to respond. The president has called a National Security Council (NSC) meeting to ask members to deliberate on a course of action. NSC members will need to balance U.S. trade and health priorities, weighing the interests of U.S. companies and their contributions to the U.S. economy against the United States’ commitment to global health and its leadership role abroad. 



  • Global health
  • Noncommunicable diseases
  • International trade
  • International tobacco control



  • U.S. economic interests
  • U.S. global health interests
  • Regulations on the trade and promotion of tobacco products
  • Regional free trade agreements in the Americas
  • Health risks of electronic cigarettes

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