The local chamber of commerce is usually a reliable ally in battles against regulation. But when it comes to smoking rules, many business groups have decided they would rather switch than fight, reports Reuters. Even in states where tobacco has played an important role in the economy—including North Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri—chambers have endorsed cigarette tax hikes, raising the smoking age and other efforts to curb tobacco habits. The shift has accelerated since 2016, driven by a growing awareness that smoking drives up healthcare costs for employers, business groups said. Smoking restrictions often are part of broader wellness initiatives, such as promoting exercise and nutrition, aimed at improving health—and business. “Smoking isn’t just killing us, it’s bankrupting us,” said Ashli Watts, a spokeswoman with the Chamber of Commerce for Kentucky, where one in four adults uses tobacco, the lung cancer rate is the nation’s highest and related healthcare and lost productivity costs nearly $5 billion a year. “Companies do look at the health of a workforce,” Watts said. An unhealthy workforce “is a deterrent.”
Ten years ago, writes Kelly Henning from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health program in the Health Affairs blog, the world was a different place when it came to tobacco. Fewer than twenty developing countries in the world had even one strong tobacco control policy in place. The tobacco industry was beginning an aggressive ramping up of nefarious activities to grow their market share in vulnerable developing countries. And although advocates for tobacco control measures had a major public health victory in passing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first public health treaty, little financial or technical help was available to support countries that wanted to put life-saving, proven tobacco control policies in place. Early in 2007, the tobacco control landscape was changed dramatically when Michael R. Bloomberg, then in his second term as mayor of the City of New York, donated $125 million through his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, for a two-year commitment to reducing global tobacco use. Now ten years and a total of $600 million later, Bloomberg recently committed another $360 million over six years to this life-saving work, bringing his total financial commitment to nearly $1 billion. In that time, nearly 100 countries worldwide with a total of more than four billion people have passed at least one strong tobacco control law—and fifty-nine of these countries with nearly 3.5 billion people have received Bloomberg support.
A UK court has dismissed an appeal brought by some of Britain’s largest tobacco companies over the government’s new plain packaging rules, reports Reuters. In the decision, the court dismissed all appeals brought by British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, Imperial Brands and several paper manufacturers. The companies argued that the law, which went into effect in May, unlawfully deprives them of their intellectual property by banning the use of all marketing on packages, including logos, colors and special fonts. “This is a victory for public health and another crushing defeat for the tobacco industry,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health.
The uptick in mass shootings over the past few years has led to widespread calls for gun reform and the defeat of pro-gun lobbyist groups opposing it. Since the gun lobby currently employs many of the same tactics used by the powerful tobacco lobby, some have reasoned that the same blueprint used to weaken the big tobacco lobby could work for guns. Though the two lobbying groups—tobacco and guns—use similar strategies, the issues they represent are fundamentally different and require different game plans to defeat. An article in The Harvard Political Review, a journal published by Harvard undergraduates, explains the rationale for taking different approaches.
In the last two decades, the public health community has generally agreed that the tobacco industry has no role in setting health policy or sponsoring research on tobacco. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control bans industry participation in policy deliberations on Tobacco, most major global public health organizations and national health departments have sharply limited their interactions with representatives of the tobacco industry, and many universities and some journals no longer accept or publish research supported by the tobacco industry.
However, no such agreement has been reached on the appropriate role for corporations and trade associations in other sectors such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, and alcohol. Some health and business analysts emphasize that the different roles that the products of the tobacco, medicines, food and alcohol industries play in patterns of health and disease make any judgments inappropriate and misguided, especially in the case of the drug industry. “Such comparisons (between the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries) are not just absurd, they are irresponsible as they contribute to patients not taking prescribed medicines that can clearly benefit them”, wrote one former drug industry executive. Read more
For many Missouri health advocates, an increase in the state’s tobacco tax is long overdue. But, according to the California public radio station KCLU, onlookers might be surprised to hear that tobacco companies are spending a fortune this election year to get one or another increase in that tax passed, while health groups are urging a no vote. Groups like Tobacco Free Missouri, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have joined fiscal conservatives in opposing Amendment 3. These anti-smoking groups worry that creating such a small tax now might eliminate the chance of future tax that would be big enough to significantly change smokers’ behavior.
Thirty years of research in tobacco control has shown that countermarketing has been effective in reducing tobacco use, especially among teenagers and young adults. This policy brief by investigators at the City University of New York Urban Food Policy Institute describes some of the key elements of effective tobacco countermarketing campaigns, and examines the relevance of these evidence-based countermarketing practices to unhealthy food and beverages, defined as processed products high in unhealthy fats, sugar, salt and empty calories
A new report in The Milbank Quarterly concludes that passing e-cigarette regulations at the state level has become more difficult since cigarette companies have entered the market. While state legislation is possible, as with earlier tobacco control policymaking, local governments remain a viable option for overcoming cigarette company interference in the policymaking process. Citation: Cox E, Barry RA, Glantz S. E-cigarette Policymaking by Local and State Governments: 2009-2014. The Milbank Quarterly 2016; 94(3): 520–596.
Case Studies on Corporations & Global Health Governance, edited by Nora Kenworthy, Ross MacKenzie and Kelley Lee, presents interdisciplinary case studies on how corporations influence global health governance and how they could be held more accountable. The empirical studies examine several industries across high, low and middle income countries and explore the impact of corporations and their allies on the governance processes that shape population health.
“Exxon and its allies have dismissed comparisons to Big Tobacco as baseless”, writes Smoke and Fumes, a project of the Center for International Environmental Law. “Our research in more than 14 million documents of the Tobacco Industry Archives reveals compelling evidence that the relationship between these two industries is neither coincidental nor casual. Beyond a doubt, the oil companies have benefitted from the tobacco playbook in their fight against climate science. But the question arises, where did the tobacco companies get their playbook in the first place?” Read more.