Since the early 1980s, a number of tobacco control bills have been introduced in Australia at federal and state levels (refer to Appendix III for a summary). This has led to a direct and very public conflict of interests between the health and tobacco lobbies. The following generalisations about tobacco industry lobbying may be made:(135,136,137,138)
ð The tobacco industry most strenuously opposes those restrictions which will have an impact on its financial well-being, (that is, sales of tobacco products), and will support restrictions which it sees as either inconsequential or as having a secondary gain (for example making it appear socially responsible).
ð Those sporting or arts bodies in receipt of tobacco funding may be threatened with loss of sponsorship, thereby prompting them to lobby on the tobacco industry's behalf.
ð The tobacco industry may use interstate and overseas lobbyists as necessary to assist their cause.
ð The tobacco industry may undertake extensive advertising campaigns to publicise its views, and publish and widely disseminate literature.
ð The tobacco lobby may deliberately misconstrue information to suit its own ends.
ð The tobacco lobby may create diversions or introduce irrelevancies to confuse or diffuse debate.
ð The tobacco lobby may send representatives to personally lobby politicians and other people with influence.
ð The tobacco industry has orchestrated letter-writing campaigns among employees, encouraging writers to conceal their personal tobacco interests.
ð The tobacco lobby has solicited public support for its aims in press advertisements, providing a toll-free number for supporters to signal their support.(139) In other countries, pre-printed protest letters have been distributed for endorsement and posting by supporters.(140)
ð The tobacco industry is prepared to allocate substantial funding to support its lobbying interests.
ð The tobacco industry funds medical and other research intended to serve its lobbying strategies (see also Section 14.21 below).
ð Australian politicians have alleged that they have been directly harassed by the tobacco lobby as a result of stating support for tobacco control measures.(141)
ð In the United States, one tobacco company has established a 'trade council' comprising representatives from a range of trades and industries allied to the tobacco industry, and intended to deal with a broad range of tobacco issues.(142)
ð In the United States, the tobacco industry and lobbyists in its employ have made major financial contributions to key politicians and legislators,(143) and political parties.(144) Former British Prime Minister (now Baroness) Margaret Thatcher has become a paid consultant to Philip Morris.(145) The Australian tobacco industry has been a significant contributor to the country's major political parties.(146)
A guide published by INFOTAB (now called the Tobacco Documentation Centre) with the title 'A guide for dealing with anti-tobacco pressure groups'(147) provides some added insight into the tobacco industry's response to opposition, but few surprises. Some of the views and recommendations are summarised below.
ð Health lobby coalitions are dangerous, as are press conferences called by these groups.
ð The guide stresses the importance of identifying and befriending potential allies, well in advance of problems blowing up. 'Find out their interests and support these.'
ð Monitor the activities of anti-smoking groups and activists.
ð Set up a national pro-smoking alliance, and one for 'freedom' and 'liberty'.
ð Use existing 'argumentation' (the industry line has been well rehearsed).
ð If legislation is imminent, identify opportunities for delay.
ð Develop a direct media campaign: do not expect editorial coverage, but invest in media space to enable arguments to be as detailed as needed, with best timing.
ð Commission polls and surveys to attack the health lobby's credibility, and then merchandise favourable opinions.
ð Expect to spend at disproportionately high levels to ensure that your message gets across.
ð Discredit the often imported activists of the coalition -- ideally through third parties.
ð Appeal to the public to make the politicians listen. Smokers are voters.
Interestingly, in 1992 an Australian Federal Court decision confirmed that money spent by tobacco companies on opposing health legislation may be tax-deductible. Rothmans successfully had its half-million dollar contribution to the Tobacco Institute of Australia for the purposes of opposing proposed legislation in Victoria and South Australia during 1987 and 1988 deemed tax-deductible on the grounds that the cost was incurred in the course of conducting business, and was not of a capital nature.(148)