Lighting up the powerful global smoking lobby

January 17, 2008

Global public health efforts to reduce smoking are at odds with the interests of the tobacco industry. According to a case study published in the online open access journal Globalization and Health, competing tobacco companies co-operate via a global network of national and regional manufacturing associations to undermine public health measures to counter smoking.

Patricia McDaniel, Gina Intinarelli and Ruth Malone from the University of California, San Francisco dug deep into documentary data from tobacco industry documents archives. Their case study, which maps globally tobacco industry-linked groups known as “issues management organizations,” draws upon previously secret tobacco industry documents and details some of the strategies these bodies used.

The International Committee on Smoking Issues (ICOSI) was formed in 1977 by seven tobacco company chief executives to create common anti-tobacco control strategies and build a global network of regional and national manufacturing associations. Later renamed INFOTAB, multinational companies built the organization rapidly: by 1984, it had 69 members operating in 57 countries.

According to the authors, INFOTAB material, including position papers and “action kits” helped members challenge local tobacco control measures and maintain tobacco-friendly environments. In 1992 INFOTAB was replaced by two smaller organizations: The Tobacco Documentation Centre, which continues to operate, distributes smoking-related information and industry argumentation to members, some produced by cross-company committees. Agro-Tobacco Services, and now Hallmark Marketing Services, assists the INFOTAB-backed and industry supported International Tobacco Growers Association in promoting tobacco’s economic importance in developing nations.

“Policymakers should be aware that although these associations claim to represent only national or regional interests, they are allied to and coordinated with a confederation of trans-national tobacco companies seeking to protect profits by undermining public health,” says Ruth Malone. “Cigarette manufacturers and their attorneys played the biggest role. Under their explicit direction, INFOTAB set policies and crafted strategies that ensured that the global tobacco community spoke and acted as one.”

Tobacco is the second major cause of death worldwide, with 84% of smokers living in developing and transitional economy countries. Litigation against the tobacco industry led to the public release of over 47 million pages of internal industry documents housed in paper depositories and online electronic archives.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Big Tobacco's anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Related Stories

Big Tobacco's anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

November 21, 2017
Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend—but not by choice.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

UN labour body under fire over tobacco ties

November 9, 2017
The UN's labour organisation was accused Thursday of capitulating to pressure from tobacco companies after it withdrew an announcement that it had cut financial ties with the industry.

National poll: Many unaware of court findings against tobacco companies

November 7, 2017
On Nov. 26, Altria, Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies will begin to publish court-ordered "corrective statements" about cigarettes, the result of a 2006 federal court verdict that found the companies ...

Peers can reduce tobacco use among younger smokers

October 27, 2017
Participating in a brief intervention delivered by their peers in community settings can help reduce smoking among youth and young adults, a new study from a team of tobacco-cessation researchers shows.

Tanning beds and risky behavior linked—in men

November 2, 2017
Even though men use tanning beds at lower rates than women, men who tan tend to do it in riskier ways, according to a study by researchers at the University of Connecticut. The findings should help public health officials ...

Recommended for you

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

Exercising and eating well are greater contributors to health than standing at work

November 21, 2017
By now you've probably heard the edict from the health community: Sitting is the new smoking. Perhaps you've converted to a standing desk, or maybe you have a reminder on your phone to get up once an hour and walk around ...

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

HarryStottle
not rated yet Jan 19, 2008
This is a surprise?

This is how the "self interest" worshipped by unapologetic Friedmanite "free-traders" plays out in the market place. It never occurred to Friedman that the market could only work as he believed it could if every consumer was able to make a free and INFORMED choice. This entails that producers and retailers are completely honest and open.

Free trade which isn't also INFORMED trade, is - as we now now - one of the most dangerous things human beings can do to each other...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.