There are six ways that the industry interferes.
The tobacco industry has used a variety of methods to influence policy and legislation around tobacco control. Its aim is mainly to block, nullify, modify or delay pending legislation.
Over the past 25 years the tobacco industry has undermined the efforts of governments across the world in protecting public health with tobacco control by instituting large-scale lawsuits or threatening governments with these lawsuits.
Research shows how the tobacco industry has provided testimony in court cases, written position papers and constituency letters to government departments and had face-to-face discussions with legislators to influence policy. Other methods include:
- Exploiting legislative loopholes,
- demanding a seat at government negotiating tables,
- promoting voluntary regulations instead of legislation,
- drafting sample legislation favourable to the industry,
- challenging and stretching government timetables to implement laws,
- bribing legislators,
- gaining favour by financing government initiatives on other health issues and,
- defending trade benefits at the expense of health
The tobacco industry has been known to use its influence over politicians to interfere with government policies and processes that would
encourage tobacco control.
The industry has been found to exert influence over legislation by making generous donations to politicians and using well-connected lobbyists to push an agenda, strategy and pro-tobacco policies.
The tobacco control community can rarely match the tens of millions of dollars that the industry uses to advance its agenda. Research shows that tobacco companies suggest or propose voluntary agreements to veer away from legislation or regulation. These, however, do not translate into public health gains .
The tobacco industry is known to use factors such as job creation and tax contributions to show their “enormous” contribution to a country’s economy. The industry then uses these “economic arguments” to lobby against tobacco tax increases. But in most cases these figures exaggerate their economic importance. And evidence shows that the job losses in the tobacco sector have little to do with stricter measures to control tobacco.
Aside from being sensational, the economic information that the industry produces ignores the negative impact that tobacco use has on people. It also fails to highlight how millions of people who develop disease from tobacco use must be treated with public funds.
Studies show that the claims about potential loss of jobs and other economic losses of more stringent controls on tobacco are exaggerated and that such losses are insignificant.
One lesson the tobacco industry learnt very early was that public opinion matters. Despite the millions of lives that are lost each year as a result of smoking, the tobacco industry invests in various programmes and social causes to deflect the attention from the negative impact of their brands.
By using corporate social responsibility or social investment. Tobacco companies present themselves as responsible member of society. But research across the world into internal tobacco industry documents show that these industry use these investments to generate good publicity for the industry and deflect attention from tobacco as a health hazard.
In an attempt to block effective tobacco control legislation and programmes from being implemented, time and again, the industry uses independent ’front groups’. In the past these have included:
- gambling and gaming
- tobacco retailing
- agriculture and tobacco growers
- labour unions
- investment advisers
Other potential allies include recipients of tobacco sponsorship and research funds. Industry sponsorship of sporting and cultural events has been defended as being essential to their existence.
But countries that have banned sporting and cultural sponsorship by the tobacco industry have not experienced a collapse or even any serious disruption of those activities. These groups would appear in the news media and at legislative hearings, where they seek to reframe tobacco control policies as economic issues rather than public health initiatives.
6. Undermining Scientific Research
For years the tobacco industry has been commissioned or collaborated on studies into tobacco. But often these studies purposefully to use science or pseudoscience to defeat legitimate scientific enquiry into the harm caused by tobacco.
There are also reports of the tobacco industry offering financial support to scientists, other academics and research consultants. Often these results are manipulated, suppressed or used incorrectly by non- scientists to suit the needs of the tobacco industry.
They are intended to cast doubt on the credibility of the scientific evidence of the harm caused by tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke is a common tactic of the tobacco industry.