2012: Tobacco industry interference


World No Tobacco Day, 31 May 2012 focuses on Tobacco Industry Interference

The World Health Organization (WHO) selects Tobacco Industry Interference as the theme for World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) 2012.

Interference by the tobacco industry is a constant threat to tobacco control efforts. As momentum is growing in the fight against tobacco and more and more countries are committed to meeting their obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the tobacco industry is becoming more energetic and innovative in their efforts. Good public health policy depends on a clear-sighted understanding of the industry's tactics.

Tobacco Industry Interference

The tobacco industry has historically used, and continues to use, many different tactics to shape and influence tobacco control policy:

  • Injects large sums of money as philanthropic contributions into social programs worldwide to create a positive public image under the guise of corporate social responsibility (including youth smoking prevention programs)
  • Influences public health policy and laws, with inaccurate arguments not substantiated with evidence
  • Engages in litigation, such as suing countries for adoption of pictorial health warnings
  • Uses its economic power, lobbying and marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research
  • Funds scientists and researchers, including universities

A study recently published in the British Medical Journal details that of 90 universities and 16 medical faculties, 39% had received donations from the tobacco industry. Four of the 16 medical schools had received research grants.

What can we do?

Adoption and full implementation of Article 5.3 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)

The WHO FCTC recognizes early in the preamble “the need to be alert to any efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control efforts”.

In addition, Article 5.3 of the treaty states that “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”.

Furthermore, the guidelines to the implementation of Article 5.3 acknowledge that that tobacco industry interference cuts across a number of tobacco control policy areas, and helps ensure that efforts to protect tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry are comprehensive and effective.

Parties are strongly urged to implement measures beyond those recommended in these guidelines when adapting them to their specific circumstances.

On World No Tobacco Day 2012, and throughout the following year, WHO will urge countries to put the fight against tobacco industry interference at the heart of their efforts to control the global tobacco epidemic.