Governments around the world continue to be influenced by powerful tobacco companies that hinder efforts to reduce tobacco use. They are not taking sufficient measures to protect policy from the tobacco industry as required under Article 5.3 of a global treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
A new report from STOP and the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, reveals a worsening trend. Analysis from civil society organizations shows a deterioration in the scores for more than half (43) of the 80 countries analyzed in the 2021 report, while 29 improved their score. No country was immune to the industry’s intensified efforts to sway policy and policymakers to its advantage, with tactics including aggressive lobbying to create acceptance for electronic products and significant efforts to hide environmental damage caused by both cigarettes and electronic products. Key findings include:
• Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand, France, the Netherlands and Botswana ranked best overall.
• The worst-scoring countries were the Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Japan and Indonesia—all countries in which the industry has a significant presence.
• The most improved scores were recorded by Ukraine, Botswana, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. As the industry increasingly targets African consumers, progress in protecting policy across the continent is particularly urgent.
• Within each region, there are significant differences in scores between the best- and worst performing governments.
• Countries that have not ratified the WHO FCTC, including Argentina and the U.S.A., face high levels of industry meddling.
“The tobacco industry is aggressive in sabotaging government efforts to strengthen tobacco
control,” said Mary Assunta, PhD, Head of Global Research and Advocacy for the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, a partner in the STOP network and lead author of the Index.
“This report confirms that there is no room for complacency; the key to arresting industry
interference lies in the hands of governments. They must use Article 5.3 which will empower them to do their utmost to stop the 8 million preventable tobacco-related deaths every year.”
Key trends include the industry aggressively seeking to create favorable conditions for new addictive products such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and nicotine pouches:
• Tobacco companies successfully lobbied for the end of bans on e-cigarettes, HTPs and/or
nicotine pouches in Egypt, Kenya and Uruguay. In Uruguay, the Ministry of Public Health used industry-friendly information provided by Philip Morris International (PMI) instead of
information prepared by its own experts.
• Policymakers in Malaysia de-listed nicotine as a poison from the National Poison Act after Japan Tobacco International called for the Act to be amended.
• In Italy, a proposal for stronger regulation of e-cigarettes and HTPs was successfully opposed by policymakers who received funding from e-cigarette companies.
• The Philippines approved an industry-friendly e-cigarette law.
Amid growing alarm at e-cigarette waste and calls for cigarette filters to be banned as toxic, singleuse plastics, the industry stepped up activities to hide its environmental harms:
• In at least 15 countries including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Korea, Malaysia, Sweden,
Switzerland and Uruguay, industry-led cigarette butt litter cleanups secured the endorsement of governments and public institutions.
• In Costa Rica, a PMI-sponsored activity coincided with the Legislative Assembly’s debate on a bill to declare cigarette butts as special waste and place the responsibility for their disposal on the manufacturer or importer.
• Local or national governments in 10 countries including Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Madagascar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zambia entered into partnerships with or endorsed industry-sponsored tree planting programs.
Beyond national policymaking, the industry targeted delegations to global treaty discussions, specifically the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the World Health Organization FrameworkConvention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
“The industry’s ‘corporate social responsibility’ handouts to impress policymakers is a pittance compared to the cost of the harm it causes, what governments could be collecting in tax revenues and the tens of billions of dollars in profits enjoyed by global tobacco companies,” concluded
Assunta. “Governments must stop believing the industry’s spin and hold it accountable instead.”