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The devil is in the detail: tobacco industry political influence in the Dutch implementation of the 2001 EU Tobacco Products Directive
  1. Jessamina Lih Yan Lie1,
  2. Marc C Willemsen1,2,
  3. Nanne K de Vries1,
  4. Gary Fooks3
  1. 1CAPHRI, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Dutch Alliance for a Smokefree Society, The Hague, The Netherlands
  3. 3School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Jessamina Lih Yan Lie, CAPHRI, Maastricht University, P. Debyeplein 1, Maastricht 6229 HA, The Netherlands; J.Lie{at}


Introduction The Dutch implementation of the black border provision in the 2001 European Union Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is studied to examine the implications of tobacco industry involvement in the implementation phase of the policy process.

Methods A qualitative analysis was conducted of Dutch government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, triangulated with in-depth interviews with key informants and secondary data sources (publicly available government documents, scientific literature, and news articles).

Results Tobacco manufacturers’ associations were given the opportunity to set implementation specifications via a fast-track deal with the government. The offer of early implementation of the labelling section of the TPD was used as political leverage by the industry, and underpinned by threats of litigation and arguments highlighting the risks of additional public costs and the benefits to the government of expediency and speed. Ultimately, the government agreed to the industry's interpretation, against the advice of the European Commission.

Conclusions The findings highlight the policy risks associated with corporate actors’ ability to use interactions over technical product specifications to influence the implementation of health policy and illustrate the difficulties in limiting industry interference in accordance with Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The implementation phase is particularly vulnerable to industry influence, where negotiation with industry actors may be unavoidable and the practical implications of relatively technical considerations are not always apparent to policymakers. During the implementation of the new TPD 2014/40/EU, government officials are advised to take a proactive role in stipulating technical specifications.

  • Tobacco industry
  • Tobacco industry documents
  • Packaging and Labelling
  • Public policy

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