Department for Health

Corporate policy influence

Corpoate impacts on our health

 

Consumer products manufactured and marketed by the tobacco, alcohol and food industries are responsible for a significant and growing proportion of the global burden of disease, contributing to over 12million deaths annually (Gilmore et al. 2011, WHO 2015a,b).

  • Cigarettes, alcohol and foods high in salt, fat and sugar increase consumers’ risk of dying from non-communicable diseases, including:
  • Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke
  • Cancers
  • Chronic respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma
  • Diabetes

Arguably the greatest challenge and opportunity for public health lies in reducing the contributions of tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption and unhealthy diet to the rising global burden of preventable non-communicable diseases (Gilmore et al. 2011).

 

Our research

Our research responds to global recognition – for example in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC, WHO 2003) – of negative corporate impacts on health and aims to improve understandings of how corporations contribute to this disease burden directly through the promotion of products damaging to health; and indirectly through influence over public policy. 

While the FCTC has now been ratified by 180 of the United Nation’s (UN) 193 member states, treaty implementation has been slow, with Parties identifying industry interference as the greatest impediment to progress (WHO 2014). Implementation of Article 5.3, which seeks to protect public health policy from tobacco industry influence, has been particularly problematic(Malone & Bialous 2014).

Our recent research focuses on the tobacco and alcohol industries, using case studies, such as UK standardised tobacco packaging and the revised European Union (EU) Tobacco Products Directive to examine and classify corporations’ political activity:

  • Policy-making frameworks and trade agreements
  • The EU Tobacco Products Directive
  • Standardised tobacco packaging in the UK
  • Use and misuse of evidence in the policy process
  • Use of third parties and “front groups”
  • Illicit tobacco
  •  Harm reduction
  • Corporate social responsibility programmes
  • Tobacco Product and Packaging Innovation
  • Taxonomies of corporate political activity

We report our findings in real-time on our ground-breaking public engagement ‘wiki’ TobaccoTactics, giving policy-makers immediate access to research knowledge on corporate influence on health. 

The research team:

Contribution of our researchers

Policy-making frameworks and trade agreements

Tobacco companies have collaborated with other transnational corporations to influence policy-making processes and international trade agreements.  Our research has shown how the tobacco industry has shaped the EU’s ‘Better Regulation’ agenda, which institutionalises consideration of business interests in the policy process via the introduction of impact assessments and public consultations.  Tobacco companies anticipated Better Regulation would increase their influence on health policy (Smith et al. 2009, 2010a,b, 2015).  We have also explored tobacco companies’ influence over policies and practices relating to market liberalisation and regional and global trade organisations and agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Fooks & Gilmore 2014). 

The EU Tobacco Products Directive

In 2014 the EU adopted the revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) following a 5 year review. The TPD has been negotiated within the parameters of two policy frameworks - Better Regulation and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which seeks to reduce it. We examined the scale and nature of tobacco industry lobbying against the TPD, used quantitative text mining techniques to evaluate the impact of this lobbying on the TPD text and examined how the two policy frameworks, Better Regulation and the FCTC, have affected TTCs’ ability to exert influence on the TPD (Costa et al. 2014, Peeters et al. 2015).

Standardised packaging in the UK

In 2015, the UK Parliament voted in favour of standardising cigarette packaging.  From May 2016, a phased introduction will require all cigarette packs to be printed in a drab brown colour, without logos, brand imagery or promotional text.  Our research has explored how tobacco companies opposed standardised packaging using evidence, scare tactics, communication and recruitment campaigns, lobbying and third parties (Evans-Reeves et al. 2014, Hatchard et al. 2014, Rowell et al. 2014, Ulucanlar et al. 2014). 

Use and misuse of evidence in the policy process

Better Regulation grants a pivotal role to evidence.  Our research has shown that in opposing standardised packaging, tobacco companies tried to exploit the importance of evidence by commissioning their own research, citing large volumes of non-relevant evidence in submissions to government consultations, not disclosing their links to evidence and by misrepresenting the quality of evidence supporting standardised packaging (Evans-Reeves et al. 2014, Hatchard et al. 2014, Ulucanlar et al. 2014).

Use of third parties and “front groups”

Because of the harm of their products, which kill one in two long-term users, and a history of denying those harms, tobacco companies have very poor political reputations.  180 countries are party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, of which Article 5.3. seeks to restrict the tobacco industry’s influence on health policy (WHO 2003).  To counter this, tobacco companies invest in “front groups” and trade organisations which can represent their position for them.  Our research, also reported on TobaccoTactics, has demonstrated tobacco companies’ extensive use of third parties in opposing the EU Tobacco Products Directive and standardised packaging in the UK (Costa et al. 2014, Evans-Reeves et al. 2014, Peeters et al. 2015). 

Illicit tobacco

Tobacco companies rely heavily on the argument that tobacco control policies such as increasing tax and standardising packaging will exacerbate the illicit tobacco trade.  Our research has shown that tobacco companies’ data on illicit tobacco should be treated with caution.  It relies on empty pack surveys conducted in large cities and sporting events, which exaggerate the scale of the illicit tobacco trade.  Tobacco companies have used this data to claim, via stories in the press, that levels of illicit tobacco use in the UK are high and increasing.  Their figures are contradicted by government statistics – which show steady declines in both ‘non-UK duty paid’ and illicit cigarettes from 2006 to 2012 and either a continued decline or small increase to 2013 – and their claims about negative impacts of standardised packaging have been refuted by the UK’s HM Revenues and Customs.  Further, tobacco companies have been found to be complicit in the illicit trade.  Despite this, tobacco companies continue to use their own data to argue that tobacco control policies will increase the illicit trade (Gilmore et al. 2013, Rowell et al. 2014). 

Harm reduction

Tobacco harm reduction aims to reduce the harm caused by smoking, by encouraging smokers to shift to less hazardous forms of nicotine, ideally resulting in them ultimately quitting nicotine use altogether. This seems straightforward, yet tobacco harm reduction has been controversial and divisive in public health, in particular when debating a possible role for reduced risk products like snus, e-cigarettes and pure nicotine, products that tobacco companies’ have increasingly been investing in (Bialous & Peeters, 2012). A key concern is that tobacco companies may market these products in a way that is detrimental to public health.  Our research examines tobacco companies’ rationale and strategies for investing in these products and promoting harm reduction in Europe.  It shows how the term “harm reduction” enables tobacco companies to present themselves as health policy partners, help rehabilitate their reputation as a ‘responsible business’, and facilitate dialogue with, and access to, scientists, public health experts and policy makers  (Peeters & Gilmore 2013, 2015).

Corporate social responsibility programmes

Tobacco companies use corporate social responsibility programmes to shape government policies so that they have as limited an impact on their revenue as possible. Examples of this include untested voluntary codes on tobacco marketing, which were originally designed to pre-empt the introduction of legally binding restrictions, and youth smoking prevention schemes. In our research, we have explored the tobacco companies’ use of corporate social responsibility programmes to gain access to policy élites (Fooks & Gilmore 2013, Fooks et al. 2011, 2013). 

Tobacco product and packaging innovation

As part of our ongoing tobacco industry monitoring activities, we monitor contemporary tobacco industry materials (including company annual reports and investor relations’ materials) to identify new tobacco product and packaging initiatives, which have become TTCs’ last remaining marketing vehicle in countries where standardised packaging has not been introduced. Our researchers have demonstrated that innovations such as mentholated capsule filters are central to the industry’s current marketing efforts to drive sales of premium brands, thus profits, by ensuring a ‘willingness to pay a premium’ (Gilmore 2012). Encouraging consumers to buy more expensive brands, this allows the TTCs to remain profitable despite falling cigarette volumes.

Taxonomies of corporate political activity

Finally, we have sought to systematically review and classify the different forms of political activity undertaken by corporations manufacturing and marketing products which are harmful to health.  Reviews include industry efforts to influence tobacco taxation policy, and tobacco and alcohol marketing regulations (Savell et al. 2012, forthcoming, Smith et al. 2012). 

References

Gilmore AB, Savell E and Collin J, 2011, 'Public health, corporations and the New Responsibility Deal: promoting partnerships with vectors of disease?', Journal of Public Health, 33 (1): 2-4, doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdr008

Malone RE, Aguinaga Bialous S, 2014, ‘WHO FCTC article 5.3: promise but little progress.Tobacco Control, 23(4):279-80, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051817

World Health Organization, 2003, ‘Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’, Geneva, Switzerland

World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2014, ‘Implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC: evolving issues related to interference by the tobacco industry’ 14 July 2014.

World Health Organization, 2015a, ‘Noncommunicable diseases’, WHO Factsheets

World Health Organization 2015b, ‘Obesity’, Global Health Observatory data

 

 

Publications by our researchers

Corporate policy influence and better regulation

Skafida V, Silver K, Rechel B, Gilmore A. Change in tobacco excise policy in Bulgaria: the role of tobacco industry lobbying and smuggling Tob Control. Published Online First: 10 November 2012. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050600

Smith, K. , Fooks, G., Collin, J., Weishaar, H. and Gilmore, A., 2010. Is the increasing policy use of Impact Assessment in Europe likely to undermine efforts to achieve healthy public policy? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health , 64 (6), pp. 478-487.

Smith, K. E. , Fooks, G., Collin, J., Weishaar, H., Mandal, S. and Gilmore, A. B., 2010. “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 Medicine , 7 (1), e1000202.

Smith, K. E. , Gilmore, A. B., Fooks, G., Collin, J. and Weishaar, H., 2009. Tobacco industry attempts to undermine Article 5.3 and the "good governance" trap. Tobacco Control, 18 (6), pp. 509-511.

Corporate social responsibility and public health

Gilmore, A. B. and Fooks, G., 2012. Global Fund needs to address conflict of interest. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 90 (1),p.p. 71-72.

Fooks, G. , Gilmore, A., Collin, J., Holden, C. and Lee, K., 2012. The limits of corporate social responsibility: Techniques of neutralization, stakeholder management and political CSR. Journal of Business Ethics . DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1250-5.

Fooks, G. J. , Gilmore, A. B., Collin, J., Holden, C. and Kelly, L., 2011.Corporate social responsibility and access to policy elites: an analysis of tobacco industry documents. PLoS Medicine, 8 (8), e1001076.

Gilmore, A. B. , Savell, E. and Collin, J., 2011.Public health, corporations and the New Responsibility Deal: promoting partnerships with vectors of disease? Journal of Public Health, 33 (1), pp. 2-4.

Knai, C., Gilmore, A., Lock, K. and McKee, M., 2010. Public health research funding: independence is important. The Lancet, 376 (9735), pp. 75-77.

Collin J, Gilmore A., 2002. Corporate (anti)social (ir)responsibility: Transnational tobacco companies and the attempted subversion of global health policy. Global Social Policy, 2(3): 354-60.

 

Mapping corporate policy influence

Smith KE, Savell E, Gilmore AB. 2012.  What is known about tobacco industry efforts to influence tobacco tax? A systematic review of empirical studies. Tobacco Control Aug 12 [Epub ahead of print]

Gruning, T., Weishaar, H., Collin, J. and Gilmore, A., 2012. Tobacco industry attempts to influence and use the German government to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Tobacco Control , 21 (1), pp. 30-38.

Tobacco industry privatisation

Roberts B, Gilmore A, Stickley A, Rotman D, Haerpfer C, Prohoda V, McKee M., 2012.  Changes in smoking prevalence in eight countries of the former Soviet Union between 2001 and 2010. American Journal of Public Health, July; 102:7

Gilmore, A. , Fooks, G. and McKee, M., 2011.A review of the impacts of tobacco industry privatisation: implications for policy. Global Public Health, 6 (6), pp. 621-642.

Stuckler, D., Basurra, S., Gilmore, A., Batniji, R., Ooms, G., Marphatia, A. A., Hammonds, R. and McKee, M., 2010. An evaluation of the International Monetary Fund's claims about public health. International Journal of Health Services, 40 (2), pp. 327-332.

Gilmore, A. , Fooks, G. and McKee, M., 2009. The International Monetary Fund and Tobacco: a product like any other? International Journal of Health Services, 39 (4), pp. 789-793.

Perlman F, Bobak M, Gilmore A, McKee M., 2007 Trends in the prevalence of smoking in Russia during the transition to a market economy. Tobacco Control,16: 299-305.

Gilmore A, Collin J, Townsend J., 2007. Transnational Tobacco Company Influence on Tax Policy During Privatization of a State Monopoly: British American Tobacco and Uzbekistan. Am J Public Health, 97: 2001-9. http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2005.078378v1 

Gilmore A, McKee M, Collin J., 2007.  The invisible hand. How British American Tobacco precluded competition in Uzbekistan. Tobacco Control,16: 239-47.

Bobak M, Gilmore A, McKee M, Rose R, Marmot M., 2006.  Changes in smoking prevalence in Russia, 1996-2004. Tobacco Control, 15: 131-5.

Gilmore A, Collin J, McKee M., 2006.  British American Tobacco’s erosion of health legislation in Uzbekistan. British Medical Journal, 332: 355-58.

Gilmore A, McKee M., 2005.  Exploring the impact of foreign direct investment on tobacco consumption in the former Soviet Union. Tobacco Control,14: 13-21.

Gilmore A, Radu-Loghin C, Zatushevski I, McKee M., 2005.  Pushing up smoking incidence: plans for a privatised tobacco industry in Moldova. Lancet, 365: 1354-59.

Pomerleau J, Gilmore A, McKee M, Rose R, Haerpfer C., 2004.  Determinants of smoking in eight countries of the former Soviet Union: results from the Living Conditions, Lifestyles and Health Study. Addiction, 99: 1577-85.

Gilmore A, Pomerleau J, McKee M, Rose R, Haerpfer C et al., 2004.  Prevalence of smoking in eight countries of the former Soviet Union. Results from the Living Conditions, Lifestyles and Health Study. Am J Public Health, 94: 2177-84.

Bozicevic I, Gilmore A, Novotny N., 2004.  Tobacco use, a major public health issue in South East Europe. Eurohealth, 9: 1-4. (http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEHealthAndSocialCare/pdf/eurohealth/vol9no4.pdf)

Gilmore A, McKee M., 2004.  Moving east: how the transnational tobacco companies gained entry to the emerging markets of the former Soviet Union. Part I: Establishing cigarette imports. Tobacco Control,13: 143-50.

Gilmore A, McKee M., 2004.  Moving east: how the transnational tobacco companies gained entry to the emerging markets of the former Soviet Union. Part II: an overview of priorities and tactics used to establish a manufacturing presence. Tobacco Control,13: 151-60.

Gilmore A, McKee M., 2004.  Tobacco and transition: an overview of industry investments, impact and influence in the former Soviet Union. Tobacco Control,13: 136-42.
 

Trade policy

Holden, C., Lee, K., Fooks, G. J. and Wander, N., 2010. The impact of regional trade integration on firm organization and strategy: British American Tobacco in the Andean Pact. Business and Politics , 12 (4), Article 3.

Holden, C., Lee, K., Gilmore , A., Fooks, G. and Wander, N., 2010. Trade policy, health and corporate influence: British American Tobacco and China's accession to the World Trade Organization. International Journal of Health Services , 40 (3), pp. 421-441

Lee K, Kinh HV, MacKenzie R, Gilmore A, Collin J., 2008.   Gaining access to Vietnam’s cigarette market: British American Tobacco’s strategy to enter ‘a huge market which will become enormous’. Global Public Health, 3: 1-25.

Lee K, Gilmore A, Collin J. Breaking and re-entering: British American Tobacco in China 1979-2000. Tobacco Control 2004; 13 Supp II: ii88-95.

Gilmore A, Zatonski W., 2002.  Free trade and the protection of health: the implications of EU accession for tobacco consumption in Poland. Eurohealth, 8: 31-3.

Gilmore A, Österberg E, Heloma A, Zatonski W; Delcheva E, McKee M., 2004.  Free trade versus the protection of health: the examples of alcohol and tobacco. In: Health Policy and European Union enlargement. MacLehose L, McKee M, Nolte E (eds). Maidenhead: Open University Press, pp.198-224.

Gilmore A, McKee M., 2004. Tobacco-control policy in the European Union. In: Unfiltered: Conflicts over tobacco policy and public health. Feldman E, Bayer R (eds). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press,  pp.219-54.
 

Toacco industry influence on tobacco control policies

Joossens L, Gilmore AB. The transnational tobacco companies’ strategy to promote Codentify, their inadequate tracking and tracing standard. Tob Control Published Online First: 12 March 2013. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050796

Gilmore, A. B. , 2012. Understanding the vector in order to plan effective tobacco control policies: An analysis of contemporary tobacco industry materials. Tobacco Control , 21 (2), pp. 119-126.

Shirane R, Smith K, Ross H, Silver KE, Williams S, et al. (2012) Tobacco Industry Manipulation of Tobacco Excise and Tobacco Advertising Policies in the Czech Republic: An Analysis of Tobacco Industry Documents. PLoS Med, 9(6): e1001248. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001248

Weishaar H, Gilmore A, Smith K, Collin J, Grüning T, Mandal S., 2012.  Global heath governance and the commercial sector: Tobacco company strategies to influence the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. PLoS Medicine, 9(6): e1001249. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001249

Grüning T, Weishaar H, Collin J, Gilmore A., 2011.  Tobacco industry attempts to influence and use the German government to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Tobacco Control 10.1136/tc.2010.042093 http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2011/06/15/tc.2010.042093.full.pdf

Owusu-Dabo E, Lewis S, McNeil A, Anderson S, Gilmore A, Britton J., 2009.  Smoking in Ghana: A Review of Tobacco Industry Activity. Tobacco Control 2009;18: 206-11. http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/18/3/206

Grüning T, Strünck C, Gilmore A., 2008.  ’Puffing away? Politics of tobacco control in Germany’. German Politics,17: 140-164. http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/section?content=a793639687&fulltext=713240928

Bachinger E, McKee M, Gilmore A., 2008.  Tobacco Policies in Nazi Germany: Not As Simple As It Seems. Public Health, 122: 497-505. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18222506?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVBrief

Patel P, Collin J, Gilmore A., 2007.  “The law was actually drafted by us but the Government is to be congratulated on its wise actions”: British American Tobacco and public policy in Kenya. Tobacco Control,16: e1. http://tc.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/16/1/e1

Grüning T, Gilmore A, McKee M., 2006.  Tobacco industry influence on science and scientists in Germany. Am J Public Health, 96: 20-32.

Pilkington P, Gilmore A., 2004.  The Living Tomorrow Project: how Philip Morris has used a Belgian tourist attraction to promote ventilation approaches to the control of second hand smoke. Tobacco Control,13: 375-8.

Gilmore A, Collin J, McKee M., 2006.  British American Tobacco’s erosion of health legislation in Uzbekistan. British Medical Journal, 332: 355-58.

Gilmore A, Collin J, Townsend J., 2007.  Transnational Tobacco Company Influence on Tax Policy During Privatization of a State Monopoly: British American Tobacco and Uzbekistan. Am J Public Health 2007; 97: 2001-9. http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2005.078378v1