Lobbying Decision Makers
To make deals and influence political processes.
Industry lobbying of decision makers can takes various forms, both direct and indirect. Here at TobaccoTactics.org, the term Direct lobbying is used to describe the Tobacco Industry making contacts with policymakers to influence legislation and regulation. In addition to this, the industry has a history of using others to lobby on its behalf. The interests behind this indirect lobbying are rarely transparent. In Europe, the meaning of lobbying is often taken to include all forms of corporate political activity, while in the United States lobbying happens more out in the open. TobaccoTactics takes a restrictive view; lobbying is understood as contact with policymakers by, or on behalf of, the industry. For other forms of political activity, we have created separate categories.
The following page gives an overview of the different types of lobbying, and illustrates how categories are used to group together similar content on TobaccoTactics.org.
- See the list of pages in the category Lobbying Decision Makers.
Direct Lobbying refers to all contacts between the industry and those responsible for legislation and regulation. A number of parties are involved in such activity:
Each of the above also has its own category page, listing all pages where these issues are discussed on the TobaccoTactics site.
Contact can involve meetings or phone calls, and of course email and texting. Such contact can be used to influence the content of position papers and technical reports, such as economic impact studies and other data designed to guide government officials’ thinking. Lobbying is not simply a matter of getting specific ideas and data across to officials. It also aims to form bonds or establish collaborative links between the industry and government. Working alongside policymakers can be very useful for the industry, and so is access to working groups or advisory commissions. The aim is maintain in-roads so that the industry is able to question the meaning of existing legislation or to influence the drafting of new regulations.
Hospitality and Gifts
Apart from talking, contact may involve other activities such as gifts to politicians and civil servants, or campaign contributions to political parties. The WHO defines this as political funding to win votes and legislative favours from politicians. Speakers' fees or job offers are regarded as more acceptable; TobaccoTactics lists such activities under revolving doors.
Nicknamed Wining and Dining, the category Hospitality lists pages with evidence of politicians visiting events organised or sponsored by a tobacco company, such events range from private dinner parties to entire international trips paid for by the industry. For example, Japan Tobacco International spent £23,000 entertaining MPs in the UK in six months during 2011.
- See: Tobacco Industry Hospitality for UK Politicians for information on which MPs accepted hospitality.
- See the list of pages in the category Hospitality
Indirect lobbying refers to the contacts between regulators and policymakers as detailed above, and people and organisations acting on behalf of the tobacco industry, such as:
Some people argue that if these lobby groups speak on behalf of the industry, and are transparent about who has paid them, then this can be viewed as direct lobbying too. Others think this is up for discussion. The line between direct and indirect lobbying is a thin one. However, when Think Tanks or other policy institutions are involved, this sits within indirect lobbying territory.
Indirect lobbying includes the use of Third Party Techniques, such as Hiring Independent Experts to talk to legislators, or the use of Front Groups to put pressure on behalf of the industry - without disclosing their interests.
- For example, the UK organisation of small shop owners, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, was exposed for taking money from British American Tobacco to campaign against planned regulation on point of sale tobacco displays.
Legal Strategy - such as litigation or Challenging Legislation - is in fact a form of indirect lobbying too. In 2011 in the UK, the industry attempted to delay the political process by overloading a consultation round on the European Commission's Tobacco Products Directive. In Australia, the industry challenged the legal basis of new regulation in court by using copyright and free trade arguments against Plain Packaging laws. In the UK and Australia, Freedom of Information laws (FOI) have been used by the industry as an information gathering operation to get access to the research supporting Plain Packaging regulation, as well as to raise doubt about the evidence and the scientists responsible for the research.
Another way to pre-empt legislation and to confuse the agenda, is to present voluntary measures. Often this self-regulation forms part of Corporate Social Responsibility programmes (see CSR Strategy), aimed at improving corporate reputation.
Industry efforts to influence decision making have evolved into sophisticated attempts to influence the broad range of the debate on smoking and its regulation. The Key Topics section lists some of the issues relevant to the current debate. The tobacco industry has a long history of Influencing Science and challenging evidence on the harm caused by smoking.
Lobbying in the USA
The history of lobbying in the United States is different from that in the UK, or other European countries. On the one hand, it is less subtle, less hidden, but on the other hand the increasing protest against corporate influence on governance and politics forces the industry to look for new strategies.
A recent example of controversy around lobbying is that of Philip Morris International trying to buy access and influence by sponsoring an exclusive corporate reception in late February 2012 in Washington, DC. The company was a sponsor of the Governors and Ambassadors World Trade Reception held at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. The event focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, a trade agreement the USA is negotiating with eight other countries. Listed speakers and attendees included top US trade negotiators, representatives of other TPP countries and several US state governors. Calling on government officials not to attend, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids pointed out that
- Philip Morris International is sponsoring this event just as TPP negotiations are scheduled to resume next week later in Melbourne, Australia. Tobacco companies are working aggressively to ensure that this agreement helps them open new markets for their deadly products, despite the devastating toll in lives and health. Excluding tobacco products from trade agreements will protect countries’ authority to enact such measures, as countries are obligated to do by the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
As time has passed Tobacco Companies have had to adjust their strategies in order to maintain the ability to influence political debates:
- "Health advocacy groups have toiled during the last decade to force the tobacco industry to quit politics. And they've gotten close -- close, but no cigar."
- "After weathering legal wranglings and widespread health concerns, tobacco companies have attempted to transform their image in the eyes of Americans. Once seen as corporate giants who could use their money for political favours, the biggest tobacco companies now often approach politics more discreetly." 
- See opensecrets.org, an American website dedicated to Tobacco Companies and their strategies.
- Miles Goslett and Keith Gladdis, ‘Tobacco firm gave thousands of pounds worth of hospitality to nine MPs who opposed smoking bill’, Daily Mail, 23 November 2011, accessed 16 December 2011
- For info about the event, see Washington International Trade Association, Governors and Ambassadors World Trade Reception, 24 February 2012, accessed, February 2012
- Matthew L. Myers, Philip Morris International Seeks to Buy Influence over Trade Policy By Sponsoring Exclusive Washington, DC, Event, Tobacco Free Kids, 23 February 2012, accessed February 2012
- Tarini Parti, opensecrets.org Tobacco Companies Adjusting Strategies to Remain Prominent Political Players, 7 June 2011, accessed 12 May 2012