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New themes, same playbook: tobacco industry influence in EU policy is alive and well


Tuesday, 07 December 2021

Brussels, 7 December 2021: the new EU Tobacco Industry Index released by SPF today, with the support of ENSP, EPHA, CEO and ECL, shows revived efforts by the tobacco industry to influence the EU policy making process.

Our research of public sources shows interactions between EU policy officials and the tobacco industry have been numerous, especially in the last two years. Some of the key findings include:

  • The tobacco industry still pursues its “traditional” engagement with departments outside health, but also its “transformation” narrative through groups promoting claims of harm reduction for its novel tobacco and nicotine products. This was supported through recent media investigations
  • The tobacco industry was involved in the organization of several events and roundtables through third parties focused on the EU Beating Cancer Plan, both in its preparatory phase and after its launch in early 2021.
  • In many cases we could not find evidence that the third parties involved disclosed the involvement of the tobacco industry amongst their funders, participants, or speakers in the framework of the events or reports.

 

The best practices:

  • The European Ombudsman, for incorporating the spirit and letter of Article 5.3 FCTC in the institutional practice and in investigations
  • DG SANTE, for expanding its safeguards against tobacco industry interference through the opening of stakeholder meetings to health NGOs, and its requirement for organisations to submit declarations of interest with respect to the tobacco industry if they wish to participate in the Cancer Stakeholder Contact Group.
  • DG TAXUD, for its recent decision to publish meetings with the tobacco interest representatives.
  • MEPs who publish their meetings with tobacco industry representatives.

 

Recommendations:

  • The EU Institutions should adopt a uniform, mandatory set of specific rules regarding interactions with the tobacco industry, applicable to all EU Institutions and agencies
  • These rules should be in line with Article 5.3 and its Guidelines and with the Ombudsman’s Decisions and should impose mandatory publishing of the meeting with the tobacco industry and its front groups, as well as of the content of the meetings
  • The cases where interactions with the tobacco industry are deemed necessary should be strictly regulated
  • Entities working with the tobacco industry should be obliged to disclose any such ties ahead of any input into the policy-making process.
  • EU Tobacco Control legislation should include references to Article 5.3 FCTC
  • The general public consultation process should ensure compliance with Article 5.3 and its Guidelines. In particular, the EU institutions should:
    • Adopt a code of conduct based on Article 5.3 FCTC to set common standards for EU officials in interacting with the tobacco industry
    • Request declarations of interest from stakeholders they engage with in order to identify those with links to the tobacco industry
    • Only meet with stakeholders registered in the EU Transparency Register
    • Limit interactions with the tobacco industry and affiliated entities (i.e. those involved in the growing, processing, distribution, manufacturing or selling of tobacco products and entities funded directly or indirectly by the tobacco industry) to those that are strictly necessary, as defined in the Guidelines to Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC
    • Ensure the transparency of all interactions with the tobacco industry and its affiliated entities in legislative processes by publishing lists and minutes of these interactions.
    • Remove the standard offer of anonymity for replies to public consultations related to tobacco control policies.
  • The EU should support and work with civil society organisations who are independent of the tobacco industry in their watchdog role

 

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