How tobacco industry shapes tobacco control policies to its advantage: Methodological and ethical aspects of the investigation
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BlueLink Foundation, Sofia, Bulgaria
Smoke Free Life Coalition, Sofia, Bulgaria
Publication date: 2022-07-05
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2022;8(Supplement):A57
Researchers of the Smoke-free Life Coalition investigated how tobacco industry (TI) conveys its messages and interests to decision-makers in Bulgaria and distorts the country’s health policies in its favor. Investigated messages include: denial and undermining of anti-tobacco measures, including FCTC; constructing an appealing image of TI; opposing of increased tobacco taxation; and promoting smokeless tobacco products as ‘less harmful’. The study reveals a complex mechanism, involving third-party intermediaries who receive funding, grants and donations from TI. They formulate policy recommendations and statements to the industry’s convenience, which are then submitted to institutions, shaping tobacco control policies. Identified intermediaries funded by TI include: law firms, a National Patient Organization, a health conference organizer/publisher, high-profile think tanks, as well as other prominent academic institutions, charitable foundations, and mass media. The end recipients include MPs, the ministries of economy and finance, the Customs Agency among other institutions and individuals who formulate or implement the state’s tobacco control policies. The operational model of this mechanism is observed in specific cases, such as: government debates over tobacco taxation (including heated tobacco products) and its alleged impacts on illicit trade; a proposed National Council for Coordinating the Implementation of the FCTC; TI-sponsored grants, projects and corporate social responsibility, whitewashing the industry’s public image. This study looks analytically at the methodological, data-gathering and analytical approaches employed, and discusses critically the lessons learned by the investigators, including but not limited to: field work methods, access to sources and information, and ethical and professional dilemmas including safety, identity, credibility, communicating and effective use of the findings.
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