Tobacco Transparency2017-05-24T18:29:59+00:00

HOW MUCH CAN WE KNOW ABOUT TOBACCO LOBBYING?

WE INVESTIGATED IF GOVERNMENTS ARE COMPLYING WITH THEIR OBLIGATION TO BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT THEIR INTERACTIONS WITH THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY.

HOW MUCH INFLUENCE? MAPPING
TOBACCO LOBBYING IN EUROPEAN DECISION-MAKING

We filed access to information requests in seven European jurisdictions to find out to what extent information on tobacco lobbying is available. This is what we found.

Information disclosed Information partially disclosed Information withheld Information not held

euflag EU DG Health (2012) Date, Location, Name of Public Official, Name of Company, Content of Meeting Position of Public Official, Position of Lobbyist, Name of Lobbyist
euflag EU Secretariat General (2012) Third Party Documents Date, Location, Name of Public Official, Name of Company, Content of Meeting, Position of Public Official, Position of Lobbyist, Name of Lobbyist
euflag EU DG Trade (2015) Meeting Request, Internal e-mail Minutes of Meetings, Third Party Documents (Position of Lobbyist)
euflag EU DG Grow (2016) List of meetings, Content of meetings, Name of Companies, Position of Public Officials Name of Lobbyists, Name of Public Officials
Flag_of_Finland.svg FINLAND Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (2015) Third Party Documents Minutes of Meetings
Ireland IRELAND Department of Health (2015) Third Party Documents Minutes of Meetings
austria AUSTRIA Federal Ministry of Health (2015) Date, Location, Name of Public Official, Name of Company, Content of Meeting Position of Public Official, Position of Lobbyist, Name of Lobbyist
spain SPAIN Ministry of Health (2015) Date, Location, Position of Public Official, Name of Company, Position of Lobbyist, Content of Meeting Name of Public Official, Name of Lobbyist
spain SPAIN Ministry of Agriculture (2015) Date, Location, Position of Public Official, Name of Company, Position of Lobbyist, Content of Meeting Name of Public Official (senior officials only) Name of Lobbyist
spain SPAIN Ministry of Economy (2015) Date, Location, Name of Company (after appeal), Content of Meeting Position of Lobbyist (only one case), Position of Public Official (senior officials only) Name of Public Official, Name of Lobbyist
spain SPAIN Ministry of Finance (2015) Date, Location, Content of Meeting Position of Public Official, Name of Public Official, Name of Company, Position of Lobbyist, Name of Lobbyist

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

  • For the European Union:
1. Ensure the whole of the European Commission complies with Article 5(3) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization.

2. Ensure that if any contact with the tobacco-industry occurs, full transparency must be applied. Names of EC staff members should be disclosed, as well as names and positions of tobacco-industry representatives.

3. Ensure the EC ends its interpretation of lawyers who ultimately represent tobacco-industries as only contacts with “legal experts”.

4. Expand DG Health’s practice of proactive publication of interactions with tobacco lobbyists to all Directorates General of the Commission.

  • For national governments:
1. Names of Spanish public representatives should be disclosed, as well as names and position of tobacco-industry representatives.

2. Austria should disclose position and name of the lobbyist who represented tobacco-industries on meetings which were held.

3. Finland should improve proactive publication of documents. Interest groups contributions are listed on the decision-making procedure website, but they are not attached. Thus, documents were only available upon request.

4. Ireland has proved to limit their interactions with the tobacco-industry, however, the documents released were submissions made by interest groups in relation to a specific bill. Access to a greater range of documents is desirable.

WHY DOES IT MATTER:
THE FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL

spain In 2003, the World Health Organisation Assembly adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which aims at reducing tobacco-related deaths and diseases around the world, including by making interactions between governments and the tobacco industry more transparent. As part of this aim, most recently the WHO has pursued implementation of so-called “Plain Packaging” rules aiming to reduce consumer attraction and desire for cigarettes.

To date, there are 180 Parties to the Convention – including the European Union and the four countries (Austria, Ireland, Finland, and Spain) included in this study:

Together, the following two articles in the WHO Convention and their guidelines provide the legal basis upon which governments should make transparent the interactions and lobbying efforts of the tobacco industry.

ARTICLE 5(3)

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.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Article 5(3) establishes a need to protect public health policy from tobacco industry lobbying.

To achieve this, a key principle is outlined in the guidelines for interpretation of Article 5(3) stating that “Parties should ensure that any interaction with the tobacco industry on matters related to tobacco control or public health is accountable and transparent.”

To fulfill this principle, the guidelines recommend that Parties “establish measures … to ensure transparency of interactions” that occur with the tobacco industry.

ARTICLE 12(C)

Each Party shall promote and strengthen public awareness of tobacco control issues, using all available communication tools, as appropriate. Towards this end, each Party shall adopt and implement effective legislative, executive, administrative or other measures to promote:
(c) public access, in accordance with national law, to a wide range of information on the tobacco industry as relevant to the objective of this Convention;

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Article 12 addresses the need to promote “public access, in accordance with national law, to a wide range of information on the tobacco industry”.

In its guidelines, Article 12 recognises that tobacco companies use direct and indirect political lobbying to influence tobacco control legislation.

They recommend governments to ensure access to information “through such means as publicly accessible databases, monitoring instruments and research-based literature, and by publicizing trustworthy sources of information on the tobacco industry”.

IN THE WORDS OF THE EUROPEAN OMBUDSMAN

“The Convention and the Guidelines, by requiring Parties to “act” to protect their health policies from commercial or other vested interests of the tobacco industry, impose a proactive approach [to transparency] rather than a reactive or even passive one… This framework requires the publication online of all the meetings of [public institution’s] staff with tobacco industry representatives as well as the minutes of those meetings.”
Emily O'Reilly, European Ombudsman

Cover photo: John via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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