New Delhi: New research citing evidence collected by civil society groups in 57 countries reveals that, during 2019, the tobacco industry stepped up efforts to lobby governments through departments of finance, customs, and trade. This enabled the industry to further expand its influence during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020.
The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, released by STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog, outlines how governments were vulnerable to the industry gaining influence, while some acted to prevent it. Patterns emerged showing how:
– Corporate social responsibility initiatives created access to officials and a false perception of tobacco companies as responsible actors.
– Public officials were offered jobs in the tobacco industry and vice versa, creating potential conflicts of interest.
– Tobacco companies exploited a lack of transparency and coordination across government agencies to gain access.
Based on analysis of the 57 country reports, Ministries of Finance, Trade, Agriculture, Development and other non-health agencies were the most susceptible to influence, according to the Index’s lead author, Mary Assunta, a partner in STOP and Head of Global Research and Advocacy at the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC). By sidestepping health ministries, tobacco companies secured tax breaks and influenced policy decisions that helped them continue to sell products that kill more than 8 million people every year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry sought to secure a continuation and expansion of tax breaks and a relaxation of tobacco control policies, despite the increased need