TobaccoTactics Background

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With the products of alcohol and food industries, tobacco is responsible for a growing proportion of the global burden of disease.[1] This disease burden is increasingly being recognised as an industrial epidemic – one emerging from the commercialisation of potentially health damaging products.[2] To address the tobacco epidemic, one needs to research the tobacco industry, the vector of that epidemic.[3] It is necessary to explore how the tobacco industry influences public health, both directly through the promotion of products damaging to health and indirectly through influence over public policy. The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath has set up TobaccoTactics.org to achieve this.


Over the last decade, the release of millions of pages of previously secret internal industry documents following litigation in the United States exposed the conduct of the transnational tobacco companies, including:

  • The gap between their internal acceptance of the health impacts of smoking and their active public denials of such impacts;
  • The industry’s efforts to influence the research base for policy-making[4]
  • The targeted marketing by the industry of cigarettes to vulnerable groups[5][6] and
  • The deployment of enormous political influence by the industry to repel regulation.[7] [8]

The majority of the important body of research which has emerged has, however, been limited to academic articles that are not widely accessible to the general public. Furthermore, the most recent of these industry documents date only to around the mid-2000s. TobaccoTactics.org is a novel attempt to build on established document research by providing a more contemporary analysis of the tobacco industry’s activities.

Simultaneously TobaccoTactics.org addresses the need to monitor the tobacco industry activities, something which is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as essential to public health. Over one hundred and seventy countries around the world have signed the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the world’s first public health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. Article 5.3 of the agreement requires signatories to protect their health policies "from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry". Guidelines on implementation of Article 5.3 also highlight, amongst other things, the key role that civil society can play in monitoring the tobacco industry, stating:

Nongovernmental organisations and other members of civil society not affiliated with the tobacco industry could play an essential role in monitoring the activities of the tobacco industry.[9]

This is what TobaccoTactics.org is trying to do: help the public monitor the industry, its allies and others promoting a pro-smoking agenda.


Prof Anna Gilmore
head of the Tobacco Control Research Group
University of Bath


Resources

  • Glantz, S.A., J. Slade, L. Bero, P. Hanauer and D. Barnes (1996) The cigarette papers, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
  • Glantz, S.A. (2000) The truth about big tobacco in its own words, BMJ 321: 313-314.
  • Bero, L. (2003) Implications of the tobacco industry documents for public health and policy, Annual Review of Public Health 24: 267-288.

WHO

Notes

  1. Smoking and alcohol combined account for 12.5% of global deaths and 19.5% in high income countries, while six diet-related risk factors account for 13.6% and 17.5% of deaths respectively. World Health Organisation, Global Health Risks: Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks, Geneva, 2009, accessed October 2011
  2. R.I.Jahiel & T.F.Babor, Industrial epidemics, public health advocacy and the alcohol industry: lessons from other fields. Addiction Vol 102, pages 1335-1339, 2007.
  3. A.Gilmore, E.Savell & J.Collin, Public health, corporations and the New Responsibility Deal: promoting partnerships with vectors of disease? Journal of Public Health 2011, doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdr008
  4. T.Grüning, A.Gilmore, M.McKee, Tobacco industry influence on science and scientists in Germany, American Journal of Public Health, Vol 96, pages 20-32, 2006.
  5. R.W.Pollay, & T.Dewhirst, 'Marketing Cigarettes with Low Machine-Measured Yields', Chapter 7 in Risks Associated with Smoking Cigarettes with Low Machine-Measured Yields of Tar and Nicotine, Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph No. 13, 2001, Bethesda, Md., U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, p. 199-235
  6. M.Muggli, R.Pollay, R.Lew & A.Joseph, Targeting of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by the tobacco industry; results from the Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository, Tobacco Control Vol 11, pages 201–209, 2002. | For more research on Cigarettes and Marketing see this page at the website of the Saunder School of Business.
  7. K.E.Smith, G.Fooks, J.Collin, H.Weishaar, S.Mandal & A.Gilmore, “Working the System”—British American Tobacco's Influence on the European Union Treaty and Its Implications for Policy: An Analysis of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents", PLoS Med Vol 7, 2010, e1000202
  8. M.Neuman, A.Bitton & S.Glantz, Tobacco industry strategies for influencing European Community tobacco advertising legislation, Lancet Vol 359, pages 1323–30, 2002.
  9. World Health Organisation, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, 2008, accessed October 2011