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Understanding commercial actors’ engagement in policy debates on proposed e-cigarette regulation in Scotland

Abstract

Introduction There is growing concern about transnational tobacco corporations’ (TTCs) and other commercial actors’ involvement in e-cigarette policy development. Previous analyses suggest that TTCs used e-cigarette debates to demonstrate alignment with public health and re-gain policy influence. Less is known about the engagement of other types of commercial actors in e-cigarette policy debates.

Methods This paper is the first to empirically analyse commercial actors’ engagement in an e-cigarette policy consultation process and to examine their views on proposed regulation. It applies mixed methods, drawing on policy consultation submissions (n=32), semi-structured interviews (n=9) and a social network analysis of website links among 32 commercial actors.

Results The results show that commercial actors’ positions on e-cigarette regulation aligned with business interests. TTCs, independent e-cigarette manufacturers and other non-licensed commercial actors were opposed to most aspects of potential e-cigarette regulation (except for age of sale restrictions), whereas licensed commercial actors, including pharmaceutical companies, supported more stringent regulation. While collaboration was viewed as strategically important to gain policy influence, distinct commercial interests and concerns about TTC credibility led to strategic distancing and to collaboration being largely confined to sector boundaries. In addition to reiterating arguments employed by TTCs in previous regulatory debates, commercial actors focused on highlighting the technical complexity and harm reduction potential of e-cigarettes.

Conclusion Awareness of the various commercial interests and strategic positioning of commercial actors in e-cigarette policy should inform public health advocacy and policy development, including managing conflicts of interest in the context of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3.

  • advocacy
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • harm reduction
  • public policy
  • tobacco industry

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