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Tobacco industry’s ‘behind the scenes’ tactics in Singapore
  1. Yvette van der Eijk,
  2. Grace Ping Ping Tan
  1. Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yvette van der Eijk, National University of Singapore, 119077, Singapore; yvette.eijk{at}


Background Tobacco companies have maintained a profitable business in Singapore, despite its strong anti-tobacco climate and commitment to protect public health policymaking from tobacco industry interference in line with Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3. This study describes how tobacco companies influence policymaking in a highly regulated environment such as Singapore’s, where there is a strong government commitment to Article 5.3.

Methods Analysis of internal tobacco industry documents detailing the industry’s lobbying activities in Singapore, retrieved via snowball searches in the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library. Subsequently, we conducted one-on-one interviews with key informants from sectors mentioned in the documents (academia, arts, government, public health, media, trade, education) to fill gaps in information and provide context to events described in the documents.

Results In the 1980s and 1990s, tobacco companies observed that, to influence policy within Singapore’s ‘hostile’ environment, they needed to use ‘behind the scenes’ tactics, targeting influential individuals at social functions or industry-sponsored events. Tobacco companies used arts and education sponsorships primarily for political purposes, to gain visibility with policymakers. Tobacco companies cultivated relationships with academic researchers and the media to avoid smoke-free legislation in the 1990s and, in the 2010s, appear to have used similar tactics to challenge Singapore’s e-cigarette ban.

Conclusions Countries with a strong commitment to Article 5.3 should consider the tobacco industry’s potential interference in policymaking beyond relationships in the government sector, particularly in academia, arts, education and the media, and the more subtle or indirect manners in which these relationships are built.

  • media
  • prevention
  • public policy
  • tobacco industry
  • tobacco industry documents

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. All tobacco industry documents are publicly available at

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Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. All tobacco industry documents are publicly available at

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  • Contributors YvdE conceptualised the study. GPPT collected the data. YvdE and GPPT both analysed the data, wrote drafts and approved the final draft before submission.

  • Funding This project was funded by a Singapore Ministry of Education Tier 1 Academic Research Fund (R-608-000-226-114).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.