Tobacco industry efforts to influence health policies.
Smith et al provides us with a remarkable review of tobacco industry efforts to influence tobacco tax which deserves several comments.(1)
First, such efforts can be quite successful as in France: From February 2004 to September 2012 there was no increase in tobacco taxes, accordingly cigarette sales remained unchanged and smoking prevalence of the youngest increased during Sarkozy's presidency, an exception among developed countries.(2) The WHO must scrutinize the implementation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which requires protecting public health policies from the influence of the tobacco industry. Indeed, the French example of the influence of the tobacco industry on a government is not unique.(3)
Second, the 16th point of industry tactics (Table 2 in 1) which is "trying to undermine tobacco control experts" can be harder and damaging, eg. slapping and sacking.(4) In November 2009, one of us (GD) was sued for libel by the French tobacconists' Union, because he stated on television that cigarettes kill two smokers each year for every tobacconist. In December 2009 as a tenured senior consultant in GD's unit, I (AB) was sacked by the Ministry of Health, even against the advice of the National Statutory Committee. Both of us won in court, the tobacconists' claim was rejected in 2011 by the Appeal Court and the sacking was cancelled in 2012 by the Administrative Court of Paris on the grounds that it was illegal.(5) However, none of us received compensation for the damages.
Third, even low and middle income countries can successfully resist tobacco industry efforts to influence tobacco control. Uruguay's tobacco- control campaign is associated with a substantial, unprecedented decrease in tobacco use of 4*3% per year during 2005-11.(6) We must keep in mind that the little Uruguay (GDP $31 billion) has been even sued in 2009 by the giant Philip Morris ($25 billion in total revenues for a market capitalization of $95 billion) before the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.(7)
Integrity, courage and mainly enduring efforts are needed against the tobacco industry.
1 Smith KE, Savell E, Gilmore AB. What is known about tobacco industry efforts to influence tobacco tax? A systematic review of empirical studies. Tob Control 2012, Online First August 12. DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050098
2 Braillon A, Mereau AS, Dubois G. [Tobacco control in France: effects of public policy on mortality].Presse Med. 2012;41:679-81.
3 Arnott D, Berteletti F, Britton J et al. Can the Dutch Government really be abandoning smokers to their fate? Lancet 2012;379:121-2.
4 Dubois G. Abuse of libel laws and a sacking: The gagging of public health experts in France. Tobacco Control Blog November 8th, 2010. Available at http://blogs.bmj.com/tc/2010/11/08/
5 Witton J and O'Reilly J. Tobacco scientist win against illegal sacking. Addiction 2012;107:1714-5
6 Abascal W, Esteves E, Goja B et al. Tobacco control campaign in Uruguay: a population-based trend analysis. Lancet 2012, Early Online Publication, 14 September. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60826-5
7 Lencucha R. Philip Morris versus Uruguay: health governance challenged. Lancet. 2010;376:852-3.
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