Using front groups

The tobacco industry includes tobacco manufacturers, wholesale distributors and importers of tobacco products. Aware of its poor public image, the tobacco industry often uses front groups, such as retailers’ associations and smokers’ groups. Directly or indirectly tied to the tobacco industry, such groups can appear to be neutral, and therefore to make credible arguments.

For example, in 2010, the European Commission (EC) launched an online consultation for the revision of Directive 2001/37/EC on tobacco products. Stakeholders were invited to choose policy options for the revised Directive. In contrast to the 50–500 responses usually received in previous consultations organized by the EC, more than 80 000 responses were received. This mostly resulted from the tobacco industry’s mobilization of retailers’ and smokers’ groups across the European Union (EU), who were often provided with sample answers to send in simply by clicking on a link. This tactic was effective in delaying the EC’s work, as it had to deal with the responses.