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Through its 41 member federations, Businesseurope argues that it represents 20 million companies from 35 countries.

  • In 1958, the organisation was renamed the Union des Industries de la Communauté européenne (UNICE).
  • In 2007, it changed its name into Businesseurope, The Confederation of European Business.1

In 1980, Philip Morris suggested that the industry needed to “Find a channel” such as “a third party” like “UNICE” to fight tobacco advertising restrictions.2 This is exactly what the industry did. Over the years, UNICE and Businesseurope appear in tobacco companies’ plans to influence regulation and decision-making.

Protecting BAT’s Interests

In 1990 the European Commission proposed to restrict tobacco advertising, although it failed to obtain the necessary votes at the Council of Health Ministers meeting in December 1990. In anticipation of a new proposal from the Commission, in January 1991 British American Tobacco produced a document to counter advertising restrictions, entitled: “Protecting BAT’s interests”.

The document stated that “Both BAT and the industry (through CECCM) have set themselves the objective of ensuring that individual European governments retain the right to determine their own advertising restrictions (bearing in mind that an EEC advertising ban will inevitably extend to Eastern Europe and have a detrimental effect elsewhere in the world)”.

One of the strategies employed was that

BAT is promoting the right of commercial free speech through projects involving:

  • European Round Table (under active discussion with Keith Richardson)
  • European Advertising Tripartite
  • UNICE (the European Federation of national industries)
  • European Advertising Association
  • European Publishers Council/(Maxwell, Murdoch, Rothermere) 3

Against Banning of “Truthful” Tobacco Advertising

In March 1991 the then Chair of BAT Barry Bramley wrote to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), a member of UNICE, arguing that: “I hope it would be appropriate for the CBI to consider how the defence of advertising might be pursued as a general business issue, both with the UK government in order to strengthen their resolve to oppose any such proposals from Brussels in the future and, through UNICE, at a European level so that they may be proactive in communicating the views of European industry to the Commission directly.”4

Bramley argued that, “I hope you would agree with the general business principle that the freedom of companies to advertise legal products must be defended, so long as that advertising is itself legal, decent, honest and truthful.”

The following month, in April 1991, UNICE wrote to the then President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, to sharply criticise proposals to ban tobacco advertising, which it “considered unacceptable on several grounds”, including that “It is UNICE’s considered opinion that in so far as products are legally manufactured and put into circulation in the community nothing can justify the company which markets them being denied effective access to advertising”.

Furthermore, UNICE believed that adoption of the proposed measures constituted “a dangerous precedent for other product categories” and would curtail “freedom of commercial speech”. It would also “cripple efforts” efforts by tobacco companies to diversify.5

Plain Pack Group

In 1993 The Plain Pack Group, an industry coalition fighting plain packaging, identified UNICE as one of a number of organisations they would campaign with.6

Work Against Workplace Smoking Bans

In its three year Corporate Affairs ETS Plan from 1994 to 19967, Philip Morris outlined how to deal with issues around environmental tobacco smoke:

Refine workplace-oriented messages which explain negative effects (especially economic ones) of legislated workplace bans. Work via NMA’s and PM contacts to communicate these messages, as well as successful and unsuccessful (from our perspective) case histories to:

  • National Employers’ Unions
  • National blue and white-collar unions
  • ETUC
  • CEC

Advertising is “Freedom of Speech”

In the late 1990s UNICE again was one of a number of business organisations that opposed the proposed ban of tobacco advertising by the European Commission. At one conference organised by the International Chamber of Commerce and UNICE, speaker after speaker lined up to oppose the ban.

Dirk Hudig, Secretary General of UNICE said: “Competition and advertising are essential elements of a free-market economy. Advertising is a major economic activity which stems from the most fundamental rights, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.”8 Hudig also told the conference that lawmakers’ desire to “protect” consumers risks turning the EU into a “nanny state”. 9
Harald Wiedenhofer, Secretary General of the European Association of Food Industry Workers’ Union, said: “We, in Germany, believe that a ban on tobacco advertising alone endangers another 23,000 jobs. Government restrictions are only justified when and where self-regulation does not work”.

Professor Torsten Stein, Director of the Europa Institute at the University of Saarbrtleken, added: “The Community’s Ad-ban Directive for Tobacco Products lacks a legal basis in the Treaty. It sets a dangerous precedent that can and will be repeated (not only in advertising, not just for tobacco), if the Directive is not set aside by the European Court”.8

Challenging Article 5.3. of the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC)

In 2008, BusinessEurope expressed its concern over “attempts by national and EU health authorities to exclude the tobacco industry from being consulted on policy and legislation”10. In a letter to the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, BusinessEurope’s Secretary General, Philippe de Buck, argued that Article 5.3. of the FCTC was in direct contravention of the EU Better Regulation principles, further asserting that excluding the tobacco industry from consultations was “hard to reconcile with the Commission’s commitment to openness and transparency and would undermine the goal of devising better regulation and policy”.10

Opposing the EU Tobacco Products Directive

In a presentation at a meeting of the European Parliamentary Committee on International Trade (INTA) in May 2013, BusinessEurope’s senior adviser, Carsten Dannöhl, described the EU Tobacco Products Directive as setting “a harmful example in international trade”11, claiming that it would set a precedent for other product restrictions that could have a harmful impact on European exports.

A few months earlier, BusinessEurope had communicated a similar sentiment directly to the Chair of INTA in a joint letter with the US Chamber of Commerce, in which it claimed that the TPD provisions “directly undermine WTO rules on trademark protection”.12

Similarly, in a letter 13 to the European Commission President Barroso in 2012, BusinesEurope’s President Jürgen R. Thumann warned of possible negative consequences that the TPD could have on Europe’s reputation internationally, including casting doubt on EU’s commitment to Intellectual Property (IP) rights.

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Businesseurope, Website, Accessed June 2013
  2. Philip Morris, Outline of a plan as suggested by J. M. Hartogh (PM) at the EAAA meeting with the European Committee on Tobacco Advertising, Frankfurt, 29 January 1980, accessed September 2011
  3. BAT, European Tobacco Advertising – Protecting BAT’s interests, 16 January 1991, accessed September 2011
  4. Barry Bramley, Letter to the Mr J M M Banham, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, 8 March 1991, accessed September 2011
  5. Zygmunt Tyezkieicz, Re Advertising of Tobacco Products, Letter to Jacques Delors, 24 April 1991, accessed September 2011
  6. J. Kendrich Wells III, Letter to David Bacon, British-American Tobacco, 6 December 1993, accessed September 2011
  7. Philip Morris, 3 Year Corporate Affairs ETS Plan, 1994 to 1996, accessed September 2011
  8. abUNICE and ICC, The Industry Speaks Out, Press Conference At the International Press Club (IPC), 27 April 1999, accessed September 2011
  9. Reuters, European Business Leaders Warn of Effects of Ad Bans, 27 April 1999, accessed September 2011
  10. abPhilippe de Buck, Letter dated 29 August 2008 to Mr José Manual Barroso, accessed 26 June 2013
  11. Carsten Dannöhl, EP BusinessEurope Speaking notes EP International Trade Committee: Tobacco Products Directive- Exchange of views on the trade implications of the Directive, BusinessEurope, 27 May 2013, accessed March 2021
  12. Adrian van den Hoven and Peter H Chase, Letter to Professor Vital Moreira expressing concerns over the Tobacco Products Directive, 20 February 2013, accessed March 2021
  13. Jürgen R. Thumann, Letter from BusinessEurope President Thumann to European Commission President Barroso in relation to the TPD, 12 December 2012, accessed March 2021