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Quantifying the influence of the tobacco industry on EU governance: automated content analysis of the EU Tobacco Products Directive
  1. Hélia Costa1,
  2. Anna B Gilmore2,
  3. Silvy Peeters2,
  4. Martin McKee3,
  5. David Stuckler1,3
  1. 1Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Department for Health, University of Bath and UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Bath, UK
  3. 3Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor David Stuckler, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ, UK; david.stuckler{at}chch.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

Objective The tobacco industry spends large sums lobbying the European Union (EU) institutions, yet whether such lobbying significantly affects tobacco policy is not well understood. We used novel quantitative text mining techniques to evaluate the impact of industry pressure on the contested EU Tobacco Products Directive revision.

Design Policy positions of 18 stakeholders including the tobacco industry, health NGOs and tobacco retailers were evaluated using their text submissions to EU consultations and impact assessments. Using Wordscores to calculate word frequencies, we developed a scale ranging from 0–tobacco industry to 1–public health organisations, which was then used to track changes in the policy position of the European Commission's 2010 consultation document, its 2012 final proposal and the European Parliament and Council's approved legislation in March 2014.

Results Several stakeholders’ positions were closer to the tobacco industry than that of health NGOs, including retailers (ω=0.35), trade unions (ω=0.34) and publishers (ω=0.33 and ω=0.40). Over time the European Commission's position shifted towards the tobacco industry from ω=0.52 (95% CI 0.50 to 0.54) to ω=0.40 (95% CI 0.39 to 0.42). This transition reflected an increasing use of words pertaining to business and the economy in the Commission's document. Our findings were robust to alternative methods of scoring policy positions in EU documents.

Conclusions Using quantitative text mining techniques, we observed that tobacco industry lobbying activity at the EU was associated with significant policy shifts in the EU Tobacco Products Directive legislation towards the tobacco industry's submissions. In the light of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, additional governance strategies are needed to prevent undue influence of the tobacco industry on EU policy making.

  • Tobacco Industry
  • Public Policy
  • Tobacco Industry Documents

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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