Study identifies EU policy shift on tobacco control after massive industry lobbying

August 13, 2014

A study has tracked how the dominance of language that first appeared in tobacco industry's submissions gradually crept into the final drafts of the European tobacco directive passed by the European parliament earlier this year. Using a word coding technique, researchers tracked how the European Commission's drafts on tobacco control policy changed markedly between 2010 and 2013, resembling tobacco industry submissions much more than those of health groups in the latter stages. The study concludes that the change in the drafts coincided with massive lobbying by the tobacco industry and was 'associated with significant policy shifts' towards the tobacco industry. The research in Tobacco Control, published by BMJ, was conducted by the University of Oxford, London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine and the University of Bath.

The research team used a form of automated content analysis, Wordscores, to code the wording of three main drafts of the proposed revision to the European Tobacco Products Directive. They also coded 20 documents from 18 stakeholders (health groups and representatives from the tobacco industry) written between 2010 and 2013, in which the different positions on tobacco controls were expressed. This computer-based technique is widely used to code policy positions of party manifestos and lobbyists, but it is thought to be the first time it has been applied to measure the effects of different lobby groups on tobacco control. The research team scaled Wordscores from 0, reflecting the position of tobacco industry, to 1, reflecting the position of tobacco control advocates. They found that the European documents shifted from a near neutral position of 0.52 (slightly favouring the health groups) to 0.4 (a relative 10% shift towards the tobacco industry position).

Initially, the European Commission's draft legislation from 2010 was closer to the position of health groups but as it passed through the Commission in 2013 and eventually EU Parliament and Council in 2014, the policy position moved significantly closer to that expressed by the tobacco industry, says the research. The research adds that this shift coincided with the tobacco industry employing over 170 full-time lobbyists and corresponded with a reduction in the proposed size of plain packaging labels, delays to proposed bans on menthol cigarettes, and a scaling back of proposed limits on where cigarettes could be sold. Several stakeholders, including retailers and trade unions, also held positions closer to the tobacco industry over the same period.

The word 'health', which appeared in about 1.71% of words in health group submissions, made up around 1.5% of total words in the initial European Commission proposal but only 1.21% of total words in the final approved legislation, says the research. Meanwhile, the researchers found that the root word 'warn', used frequently in submissions by health groups, declined from 1.57% to 1.18% in official EU documents.

Researcher Professor David Stuckler from Oxford University said: 'This study documents a significant policy shift in EU legislation in favour of the tobacco industry following massive lobbying. This shift happened in spite of the fact that all EU countries have signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty developed to protect policy-making from industry manipulation, which is a cause of concern.'

Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: 'Our study shows why we need to tighten up the governance of health policy in the different institutions of the European Union.'
-end-
For further information or a copy of the study, contact the University of Oxford News Office on +44 (0)1865 280524 or news.office@admin.ox.ac.uk

Notes

The paper, 'Quantifying the influence of tobacco industry on EU governance: automated content analysis of the EU Tobacco Products Directive', is due to be published by Tobacco Control.

The authors are David Stuckler and Helia Costa, from the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford; Martin McKee, from the Department of Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine; and Silvy Peeters and Anna Gilmore from University of Bath.

The stakeholder statements studied were from 18 major stakeholders, including tobacco representatives such as Philip Morris International and Imperial Tobacco; and health groups such as the European Public Health Alliance, Association of European Cancer Leagues, and European Federation of Allergy and Airways Disease Patients' Associations.

University of Oxford

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.