Overall Score: 14
The industry works relentlessly to delay and defeat tobacco control efforts around the world so that it can protect its profits. Though there is some progress, this second annual report finds certain areas of interference remain problems across the globe.
The tobacco industry is working swiftly to exploit the global crisis that governments are facing. Through seemingly charitable activities, the industry uses Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to gain access to and influence over governments during the pandemic. In the same breath, it's lobbying governments to stop imposing restrictions on its business and even declare tobacco as an “essential” item, even though these products contribute to the devastation caused by COVID-19.
Mexico prohibited the sale and importation of e-cigarettes during COVID-19.
During complete lockdown, Jordan mandated city buses to deliver bread and other essential items directly to neighborhoods—including cigarettes. Jordan documented an over 50% increase in consumption of tobacco during the lockdown.
Increasing taxes reduces tobacco sales and use, hence the tobacco industry relentlessly opposes this measure. The industry sidesteps health ministries, directly lobbying governmental departments such as finance and customs to present its case. For example, the industry uses the flawed argument that tax increases will exacerbate smuggling in order to scare governments and discourage them from raising taxes.
In Pakistan, the third tier of tobacco tax was withdrawn and replaced by a two-tier system. This was due to efforts by the Ministry of Health and civil society to expose how profits were made by placing the most popular brands in the lowest tier of taxes.
In Colombia, PMI lobbied the Ministry of Finance to defeat a proposed tax increase. Although there were several attempts from congressmen to increase taxes on tobacco products, there was no tax increase.
Tobacco giants like PMI are influencing governments to promote HTPs and e-cigarettes. PMI reported selling IQOS, its flagship HTP, in 47 markets and duty-free sales outlets. What was not revealed is the influence exerted and the numerous benefits the company obtained to manufacture and sell IQOS in these markets.
With the support of its public health community, India banned the import, production and sale of e-cigarettes in 2019.
In Colombia, the Minister of Commerce allowed PMI to produce HTPs in the country after PMI threatened to withdraw its tobacco production from Colombia.
Select an indicator:
When the tobacco industry interferes with government efforts to develop tobacco control policies.
The Dutch government requires that all civil servants comply with the “Code of Conduct for Integrity in the State,” which includes a clause that encourages avoiding tobacco industry lobbyists and prohibits lobbying by former ministers for two years after leaving office. This protocol prevents undue influence from the industry and its representatives and helps promote transparency.
In Colombia, Philip Morris International lobbied the Ministry of Finance to defeat a proposed tax increase. The Constitutional Court ruled the tax reform adopted through Law 1943 of 2018 was unconstitutional because of procedural defects. Although there were attempts by congressmen to increase taxes on tobacco products, the government was reluctant to introduce such amendments to the original bill. Consequently, there were no advances on this front.
The tobacco industry spends millions of dollars on so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities each year.
All tobacco-related CSR activities are banned in Iran and there are no instances of any CSR activities.
In Pakistan, British American Tobacco (BAT) donated US $35,450 to the Prime Minister for a dam fund just one month before the government announced its updated budget.
The tobacco industry enjoys many types of benefits. Direct benefits include privileges, incentives, tax exemptions or endorsements to encourage their business.
Uruguay does not give any benefits to the government.
In Japan, tobacco company JTI’s popular cigarette brand is taxed at 63%, while its HTPs are taxed at a significantly lower rate of 14.9%.
Unnecessary interactions occur when top level government officials attend social functions hosted by tobacco companies or when the government accepts offers of assistance or enters into partnerships with the tobacco industry.
New Zealand does not allow unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry. Any interaction is restricted to only when strictly necessary. The Ministry of Health records and makes public meetings with the tobacco industry. The meetings and purpose are recorded. Minutes of advisory meetings with members who have tobacco industry ties have been published.
Trivial awards given to the tobacco industry facilitates unnecessary interaction. The Jordanian Ministry of Environment awarded JTI the “Environmental Stewardship Award” for the usage of solar steam generation in its factory. This award facilitated public officials visiting the factory and interacting with JTI executives, which was promoted in the press and on social media.
Lack of transparency in government interactions makes many vulnerable to influence from the tobacco industry
France, at the executive level, requires its ministers to report weekly on all meetings, including those with the tobacco industry. There are also specific rules concerning the transparency of lobbying activities of the tobacco industry and its representatives, which require submitting an annual report to the health minister of expenses related to activities of influence or representation of interests of manufacturers, importers and distributors of tobacco products.
The Mozambican Ministry of Labour Employment and Social Security signed a three-year MOU to receive US $1.2 million in grants from the tobacco industry-funded Elimination of Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT) to address child labor in tobacco-growing rural areas. ECLT is an international NGO that is fully funded by tobacco companies (BAT, PMI, JTI, Imperial Tobacco and others).
Senior government officials working for the industry present a conflict of interest.
Myanmar has banned all political contributions from corporations, including the tobacco industry.
José María Aznar, Spanish Prime Minister from 1996-2004, has been a lobbyist and consultant for PMI in Latin America since 2018.
Governments can proactively take several preventive measures to protect their officials from being exposed to interference.
Brunei Darussalam adopted a code of conduct issued by the Prime Minister’s Office and applicable to all civil servants that prohibits unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry or its representatives, requires transparency in any necessary (regulatory) interaction with the tobacco industry and rejects partnerships with and funding or sponsorship from the tobacco industry.
Kazakhstan has neglected to firewall its tobacco control efforts and has been vulnerable to high levels of industry interference. An Entrepreneurial Code ensures participation of private entities in rule-making, providing an opportunity for the tobacco industry to influence policy decisions on tobacco control.
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Actions governments can take:
A whole-of-government approach is vital to effectively counter tobacco industry interference. More needs to be done to increase awareness of the obligation to protect tobacco control among the non-health sector to stop industry influence in thwarting and delaying policy development. Efforts to increase awareness should also include parliamentarians and all local government officials.
Interactions must be strictly limited to only those necessary for the purposes of controlling, regulating and supervising the tobacco industry. This will halt unnecessary interactions through awards ceremonies.
Adopting a Code of Conduct or guidelines for all government officials will firewall the bureaucracy so that public health policy is free from interference. To be more effective, the code must apply to the whole government rather than just the Department/Ministry of Health.
Greater transparency about government interactions with the tobacco industry will reduce opportunities for interference. All meetings with industry representatives and their outcomes must be recorded and made publicly available.
A ban on tobacco-related Corporate Social Responsibility activities can reduce opportunities for top level officials to participate and endorse industry activities.
Departments/ministries of health must work more closely with non-health departments to stop tax exemptions, incentives or any other privileges offered to tobacco companies.
State-owned enterprises should be treated like any other tobacco business as they protect their tobacco business interests and can create conflicts of interest within the government, preventing the adoption of stringent tobacco control measures. Governments should ensure state-owned enterprises are not given any incentives or privileges to conduct their business.
Governments should require tobacco companies to regularly provide information in a transparent and accurate manner about:
• market share
• marketing expenditures
• expenditure on research and philanthropy
and any other activity. Best practice would be to ban the tobacco industry from providing any contributions including political contributions, gifts, technical advice, scholarships or study visits.
Require a registry of lobbyists and the disclosure of tobacco industry lobbying expenditure. The registry should also have a record of the representatives of the tobacco industry.