The COVID-19 crisis: An opportunity for the tobacco industry or for tobacco control?
Natalia Parra 1  
,   Olga Knorre 1,   Lilia Olefir 2,   Ramona Brad 3,   Arevik Torosyan 4,   Joshua Abrams 1,   Debra Rosen 1
 
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1
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Washington, United States
2
Life Advocacy Center, Kiev, Ukraine
3
2035 Healthy Romania Generation Association, Romania
4
National Institute of Health, Ministry of Health, Yerevan, Armenia
Publication date: 2021-12-10
 
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2021;7(Supplement):34
 
ABSTRACT
Background:
The Tobacco Industry (TI) has used the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to build opposition to tobacco control policy proposals and weaken or delay the implementation of existing Tobacco Control (TC) protections. Examples of TI success can be found in Armenia, Russia, and Turkey, where the TI managed to delay the implementation of approved TC protections, gain exceptions for the regulation of nontraditional products, and lower tobacco taxes. Examples to the contrary can be found in Ukraine, Romania, and Kazakhstan, where tobacco control advocates responded with agility to, respectively, successfully protect TC policy gains, call out the TI and its tactics to great effect, and win the approval of a comprehensive tobacco control bill.

Objective:
Identify the factors which enabled the success or failure of these two competing agendas within each country and tease out insights, commonalities, and lessons learned that can help strengthen and protect tobacco control policies elsewhere.

Method:
Overview of the messaging, actions, tactics, and particular set of national circumstances that (1) enabled the advancement of the TI agenda, or (2) enabled TC advocates to deflect TI lobbying and protect and advance TC policies.

Results:
TI economic arguments during the pandemic have been particularly effective. The crisis has also afforded the TI the chance to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility activities, aiding its ability to exert influence. Despite this, in countries where tobacco control advocacy is strong, advocates have been successful in countering the narrative of the tobacco industry and even ensured TI allies pay a political price.

Conclusion:
Monitoring and countering the TI are essential to protecting public health. In presence of a strong TC advocacy movement the industry is severely limited in its ability to push its own agenda forward. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in its absence.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
No Conflicts of Interest were reported.
eISSN:2459-3087