Industry Interference: The Facts

12 Aug 2008

The tobacco industry’s core operations promote disease, death, and environmental destruction worldwide, spawning a variety of social ills, including increased poverty. Unlike other legally available goods, tobacco products have no beneficial use. They cause disease and death on a massive scale in their users and in those exposed to their toxic emissions. In spite of this, the tobacco industry remains unwavering in its commitment to maximize demand for and unfettered use of its products.

While the tobacco industry’s approach is to fight regulation aggressively, the goal of public health policy is to protect the public’s health and well-being from preventable harm to the greatest extent possible. This divergence of goals creates an irreconcilable conflict. The tobacco industry has a long, demonstrated history of undermining tobacco control policy : it ‘has operated for years with the express intention of subverting the role of governments and of the World Health Organization (WHO) in implementing public health policies to combat the tobacco epidemic’[1] . The industry’s tactics to undermine and subvert tobacco control policy include:

  • making political contributions;
  • providing payments, gifts, and perks to government officials or employees;
  • direct lobbying through undisclosed meetings and other forms of engagement with government officials and employees and indirect lobbying through front groups and use of the press;
  • gaining representation on policy-setting and law-making bodies and using this representation as a means of thwarting development or implementation of strong tobacco control measures;
  • funding and/or developing materials for tobacco control programmes in schools and for public education, such as purported ‘youth smoking prevention’ initiatives undertaken for the purposes of avoiding or shaping regulation, improving corporate image, and establishing relationships with governments and other legitimate partners;
  • engaging in public-private partnerships with governments, allowing easier access to government officials for lobbying and to attain an air of legitimacy;
  • i nitiating weak agreements with governments and adopting voluntary codes of conduct, used as a lobbying lever and to prevent the adoption of formal legislation;
  • initiating commercially driven ‘corporate social responsibility’ programmes to enhance status with local communities and the press, improve image and reputation as a ‘good corporate citizen’, and extend access and influence with regulators and politicians; and
  • manipulating research and promoting spurious science to cast doubt and undermine scientifically rigorous studies, using such tactics as commissioning scientists and other credible spokespersons to lobby policy makers without revealing their industry connections and using distorted scientific findings to manipulate media reporting.

Transparency in Tobacco Control Process , WHA Res 54.18, WHA, 54 th session, 9 th plenary meeting, Document A54/VR/9 ( 22 May 2001 ). See generally WHO Committee of Experts on Tobacco Industry Documents, Tobacco Company Strategies to Undermine Tobacco Control Activities at the World Health Organization (2000).

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