The tobacco industry is the single greatest barrier to reducing deaths caused by tobacco use. To keep selling its products, the industry needs the weakest possible regulatory environment. In other words, the tobacco industry needs to ensure that tobacco control policies don’t come into effect or are rendered ineffective.
To accomplish this goal, tobacco companies channel funding, expertise and messaging to other organizations who can carry their agenda with the perception of legitimacy. Some of these organizations are easy to spot, such as tobacco trade associations or public-relations firms working for tobacco companies.
But the tobacco industry also disguises its operations using organizations that appear to be independent. This is known as the third-party technique, a classic public-relations tactic employed by many controversial industries. This tactic helps the tobacco industry overcome its loss of credibility, and opens doors that would otherwise be closed and makes its messaging more palatable.
STOP shines the light on some of these organizations with a database that links to evidence of these groups’ involvement with the tobacco industry. It shows that no region is untouched.
A Web of Industry Allies
We place industry allies into three categories: Third Parties, Front Groups and Astroturf Groups. For many of these organizations, there is clear evidence of industry funding. For others, poor financial transparency makes it impossible to prove or disprove tobacco industry funding. These suspected third parties are labeled with an asterisk.
Third parties undertake a lobbying or spokesperson role on behalf of tobacco companies, yet they appear to be independent. For many of these organizations, there is clear evidence of tobacco industry funding. For others, poor financial transparency makes it impossible to prove or disprove tobacco industry funding. These suspected third parties are labelled with an asterisk.
A front group is a specific type of third party over which a tobacco company enjoys more control. Front groups have two key characteristics: (a) the tobacco industry plays a key role in the establishment, funding, and/or membership of the organization; and (b) despite this, the organization purports to act independently. They are typically opaque regarding their financial links to the tobacco industry and often claim to represent public or special interests.
Astroturf groups are a specific type of front group designed to give the impression of grassroots support for (or opposition to) a policy or issue by either recruiting supporters or faking them.
We have used academic sources and journals, financial filings and organizations’ own material to compile this database of tobacco allies. We’ve scoured newspaper articles, legal documents and government reports.
To help assess financial transparency we use a rating scale designed by Transparify, an independent organization that analyses financial transparency among think tanks. A score of 1 or less on the Transparify rating signifies poor financial transparency. If an organization has not been scored by Transparify, we apply its criteria to produce our own rating.
All of our examples are rooted in evidence which you can track and check. If we’ve made an error, please use the feedback form to let us know. And if you have any additional information, then contact us.
A Growing Resource
There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of other organizations working to advance tobacco industry interests. We need you to help us expose such groups and uncover links. That way, when organizations lobby against tobacco taxes, smoke-free protections or marketing restrictions, policymakers and advocates know who they are really dealing with. Help us shine the light.
You can find out much more about the many groups and individuals working with the tobacco industry on www.TobaccoTactics.org.