Manoeuvering to hijack the political and legislative process

De Observatório sobre as Estratégias da Indústria do Tabaco no Brasil
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Crédito: WHO/World No Tobacco Day©, 2012

The tobacco industry has been highly ingenious in undermining government efforts to protect public health . Businesses have become experts at creating and exploiting loopholes in the law and making links with lobbyists to influence the drafting of laws with their particular views..


" Make agreements and influence political processes."[1]

The act of influencing decision makers can take many forms, being direct or indirect. In this website, the term lobbying will be used to describe how the tobacco industry influences policymakers in order to have benefits, so that their products are not regulated. This industry also lobbies third parties or 'Front Groups' ( indirect lobbying ) to defend their interests, which are rarely transparent.

In Europe, the word lobbying is related to all types of corporate policy activity, while in the United States lobbying is more explicit.

  • This Observatory adopts a narrower vision, considering "lobbying", the contact between the tobacco industry and public policy makers, to take advantage of, and hamper actions for tobacco control. To other forms of political activity, distinct categories have been created here.

Direct Lobbying

Direct lobbying refers to the making of contacts between the industry and those who are responsible for the legislation and regulation of tobacco products. Different social actors are involved in this type of activity:

  • Tobacco companies
  • People in the tobacco industry
  • Politicians
  • Political consultants

"Lobbying" is not simply a matter of getting specific ideas and data to the authorities. It's also to seek and establish links between the industry and government. Working along with policy makers can be very useful for the industry, as well as having access to working groups or advisory committees. The idea is to maintain free channels so that industry can question the meaning of existing legislation or influence the drafting of new regulations. For example, we have the interference of the industry with the government, which culminated in the creation of the Chamber of the Tobacco Production Chain, linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA), contributing to the development of tobacco industries and the promotion of Products, such as the Brazilian tobacco certification proposal[2][3].

Hospitality and Gifts

In addition to conversations, the contacts may involve other activities, such as: offering gifts to politicians and public workers; Donations to political campaigns and / or political parties. The WHO defines this activity as "political funding to win votes and legislative favors". Travel funding for researchers attending technical meetings, covering costs for speakers or job vacancies are seen as more acceptable. In addition, job proposals can foster the inclusion of politicians or public servants in positions as lobbyists or consultants in the area of their previous activity in the public service. The Observatory lists this last activity under the expression "Revolving door".

There is also evidence of politicians participating in events organized and sponsored by a company of the industry. Such events range from private dinners to international trips paid entirely by the tobacco industry. For example, the Japan Tobacco International Spent 86 thousand reais entretaining British parliamentarians, during 6 months, in 2011. [4]

Indirect Lobbying

Indirect lobbying refers to contacts between regulators and policy makers, as detailed above, and between individuals and organizations acting on behalf of the tobacco industry. For exemple:

Some people argue that lobbyists that speak on behalf of the industry are transparent about who pays them, so this can also be considered as direct lobbying. Others think this is debatable. The border between direct and indirect lobbying is tenuous. However, when [Research Institutes] or other political institutions are involved, we have seen indirect lobbying activity, which includes the use of Third Parties Techniques, such as Hiring Independent Speccialists To talk to politicians, or use front groups to pressure on behalf of the industry without revealing their interests.

For example, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, was denounced for receiving Money from British American Tobacco, When campaigning against planned regulations on point-of-sale displays.

Another recent case is the documentary evidence of bribes that were offered by BAT to political representatives who once committed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control but who have agreed to fight for the interests of industry Tobacco in order to undermine the effects of this international treaty in their respective countries.[5]. In this case, the BBC Show, Panorama, shows that three representatives of African countries following the FCTC have caused interference in favor of BAT in the negotiations on the Convention in 2013, including Godefroid Kamwenubusa, an official with the Burundi Ministry of Health, who Received about $ 3,000; Chaibou Bedja Abdou, Representative of the CQCT in Comoros, who also received US $ 3,000 and Bonaventure Nzeyimana, a former representative of Rwanda, US$ 20.000[6].

Legal Strategies

The use of legal strategies, such as: litigation or challenging legislation, are also used as an indirect form of lobbying. In 2011 in the United Kingdom, the industry tried to delay the political process by procrastinating a round of consultations on the European Union Tobacco Products Directive.

A recent study employing automated content analysis techniques found that EU legislation on the subject was significantly altered through lobbying, in order to address the interests of the industry, with the participation of many other stakeholders, ', Including retailers.[7]

In Australia, the industry challenged the legal basis for regulating plain packaging in the courts, using arguments about copyright and free trade, and also questioned the evidence presented by research scientists, showing the influence of packaging on the consumption of these products.

Another way to delay legislation and confuse the agenda is to introduce voluntary measures. Often this self-regulation is part of Corporate Social Responsibility programs, where lobbyists are focused on improving corporate reputation. Industry's efforts to play a role in decision-making have evolved into sophisticated attempts to influence the debate over smoking and its wide-ranging regulation.

The Observatory also has separate categories that describe how the industry employs Media Strategies, Online_Strategies Online Strategies e busca Countering Critics. Adicional details may be found in the following pages.

External Resources

Lobbying in U.S.A

In the US lobbying is different from other European countries. On one hand, it is less subtle, less veiled, but, on the other hand, growing protests against corporate influence in government and politics, forces the industry to pursue new strategies. A recent example is how Philip Morris International, in an attempt to gain access and influence, sponsored an exclusive corporate reception in Washington DC at the end of February 2012. The focus of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) event is to negotiate a trade agreement between the US and other countries. Speakers and guests, including US trade negotiators and representatives of other TPP countries, as well as many state governors were present at the event.

Calling on government officials not to attend, the NGO Tobacco-Free Kids Stressed that: "Philip Morris International sponsored this event at the same date that TPP negotiations were scheduled to restart in Melbourne, Australia. Tobacco companies are working aggressively to ensure that this agreement helps them open new markets for their lethal products, Despite its devastating effects on health and lives. Convenção Quadro para o Controle do Tabaco da OMS [8].

As time goes on, tobacco companies have adjusted their strategies to maintain their ability to influence policy debates:

" Advocacy groups in health care have been working hard over the past decade to force the tobacco industry to abandon politics. And they have come close to achieving such goal".

After stimulating legal disputes, tobacco companies have been trying to transform their image in the eyes of Americans. Once considered as giant conglomerates that can use their money for political favors, large tobacco companies now approach politics more discreetly[9].

See also, regarding this subject:

Notes and references

  1. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control, 2008. Available at: Last access:24 out. 2014. Full document: PDF
  2. AMPROTABACO PARTICIPATES IN MEETING WITH MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE. GAZ. Rio Grande do Sul, 26 fev. 2014. Available at: Acesso em: 26 fev. 2014. Full document: PDF
  3. UHLMANN, Fernando. Câmara Setorial debate projeto-piloto para certificação do tabaco. Folha do Mate, Rio Grande do Sul, 2015. Disponível em: Acesso em: 30 mar. 2015. Documento integral: PDF.
  4. GOSLETT,Miles; GLADDIS, Keith. Tobacco firm gave thousands of pounds Worth of hospitality to nine MPs who opposed smoking bill. Tobacco Compaign, 23 out. 2011. Available at: Acesso em: 13 out. 2014. Documento integral: PDF.
  5. BOSELEY, Sarah. British American Tobacco accused of bribing government officials. The Guardian, Inglaterra, 30 nov. 2015. Available at: Acesso em: 8 dez. 2015. Full document: PDF
  6. ibid.
  7. COSTA, Hélia et all. Quantifying the influence of the tobacco industry on EU governance: automated content analysis of the EU Tobacco Products Directive. Tobacco Control, v. 23 p. 473-478, 2014. Available at: Acesso em: 22 out. 2014. Documento integral: PDF
  8. MYERS, Matthew. Philip Morris International Seeks to Buy Influence over Trade Policy By Sponsoring Exclusive Washington, DC, Event. Tobacco-Free Kids, Estados Unidos, 23, fev. 2012. Available at: Last access:18 nov. 2014. Full document: PDF.
  9. PARTI, Tarini. Tobacco Companies Adjusting Strategies to Remain Prominent Political Players., Estados Unidos, 7 jun. 2011. Available at: ‘ Acesso em: 13 out. 2014. Full Document: PDF