Tobacco Industry interference in TAPS policy making in Bulgaria
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BlueLink Foundation, Sofia, Bulgaria
Smokefree Life Coalition, Sofia, Bulgaria
Smoke-free Bulgaria Association, Bulgaria
Submission date: 2017-04-29
Acceptance date: 2017-05-02
Publication date: 2017-05-25
Corresponding author
Pavel P. Antonov   

BlueLink Foundation, 263 Slivnitsa Blvd, 1202 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2017;3(May Supplement):92
Tobacco industry (TI) has a powerful grasp of politics and the media in Bulgaria, but there is limited knowledge of its methods and communication messages. To explore and analyse them, we are using a recent case from the policy advocacy practice of the Smoke-free Life Coalition, ENSP member in Bulgaria. A mixed social research methodology was employed, involving: a case study; qualitative content analysis of documented communication; ethnographic participant observation; and semi-structured interviews with TAPS advocacy campaigners, policy makers and TI representatives, in the action research tradition. The case study analyses TI reaction to a surprising proposal for a complete ban of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, submitted to Bulgaria’s Parliament in November 2016 – and consecutively withdrawn. Being involved in all stages of the case and present at meetings between TI and MPs enables the researchers to gather rich information and analyse it, to cast light on: the methods for successful interference with democratic decision making, applied by industry representatives; the specific communication messages and arguments they employ to suppress smoke-free legislation. The paper observes how TI speculates with the interests of different groups, affected by and involved in its operations, to successfully contradict health concerns voiced by MPs. Democratically elected representatives appear unable to uphold the social and health interests of their voters and succumb to TI priorities. The paper concludes that a pro-industry discourse, which favours corporate incomes over concerns for people’s health and life, dominates democratic decision making mechanisms in Bulgaria’s post-socialist political landscape. Funding The Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases
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