Tobacco industry strategies for influencing European community tobacco advertising legislation
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A public-health article in this week's issue of THE LANCET highlights how the tobacco industry lobbied individual member states of the European Community to prevent the introduction of a total ban on tobacco advertising in 1998.
Restrictions on tobacco company advertising and sponsorship are effective parts of tobacco control programmes worldwide. Through Council Directive 98/43/EC, the European Community (EC) sought to end all tobacco advertising and sponsorship in EC member states by 2006. Initially proposed in 1989, the directive was adopted in 1998, and was annulled by the European Court of Justice in 2000 following a protracted lobbying campaign against the directive by a number of interested organisations including European tobacco companies. A new advertising directive was proposed in May, 2001.
Mark Newman and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, USA, reviewed online collections of tobacco industry documents from US tobacco companies made public under the US Master Settlement Agreement of 1998. Documents reviewed dated from 1978 to 1994 and came from Philip Morris, R J Reynolds, and Brown and Williamson (British American Tobacco) collections. Around 15 000 pages of paper records related to British American Tobacco were also obtained. This information was supplemented with information in the published literature and consultations with European tobacco control experts.
The investigators state that the tobacco industry lobbied against Directive 98/43/EC at the level of EC member state governments as well as on a pan-European level: ‘The industry sought to prevent passage of the directive within the EC legislature, to substitute industry-authored proposals in place of the original directive, and if necessary to use litigation to prevent implementation of the directive after its passage.'
Stanton Glantz (one of the investigators) comments: "The tobacco industry sought to delay, and eventually defeat, the EC directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship by seeking to enlist the aid of figures at the highest levels of European politics while at times attempting to conceal the industry's role. An understanding of these proposed strategies can help European health advocates to pass and implement effective future tobacco control legislation."
In an accompanying Commentary (p 1264), Nigel Gray from the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy, concludes: "A worldwide ban on advertising will probably require agreement between public-health professionals and the tobacco industry. Such an agreement may necessitate finding an acceptable way in which the industry can be allowed to make a profit in a declining market. The idea that the public-health establishment should sit down and settle an agreement with the tobacco industry rendered that establishment divided and indecisive in the USA, and is likely to do so again. Nevertheless that experience demonstrated that duress can bring the industry to the bargaining table in a realistic frame of mind. The ability to bring about that duress probably lies in the approach to litigation--sourced documents as used by Neuman and colleagues."
Contact: Professor Stanton A Glantz, Division of Cardiology, Box 0130, University of California, 1317 Moffitt Hospital, 505 Parnassus, San Francisco, CA 94143-0130, USA; T) +1 415 476 3893; F) +1 415 476 2283; E) email@example.com
Dr Nigel Gray, European Institute of Oncology, Milan 20141, Italy; T) +39 02 574 89815; F) +39 02 475 89813; E) firstname.lastname@example.org