10A.1 Strategies for influence - Overview

Last updated: May 2018     

Suggested citation: Freeman, B. and Winstanley, M. 10A.1 Strategies for influence – Overview. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2018. Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-10-tobacco-industry/10a-1-overview      

In Australia and internationally, the tobacco industry has developed a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to defending its interests. This has included:


  • developing strategies aimed at undermining the credibility of the medico-scientific community and public health interests
  • developing networks of influence throughout the business community and the political world
  • permeating community interest groups and charities
  • mobilising smokers, retailers, hoteliers, trade organisations and others whose interests overlap with those of the tobacco industry. 


The capacity of the tobacco industry to interfere with tobacco control legislation is a major barrier to the introduction of health measures. The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), Article 5.3 states that, ‘In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law’ (the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has itself been the object of intense tobacco industry lobbying. See Section 10A.7.1).1

At its third session in November 2008, the Conference of the Parties adopted guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3.2 Eight key areas were outlined for recommended action2:

1. Raise awareness about the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products and about tobacco industry interference with Parties’ tobacco control policies.

2. Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and ensure the transparency of those interactions that occur.

3. Reject partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the tobacco industry.

4. Avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees.

5. Require that information provided by the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate.

6. Denormalise and, to the extent possible, regulate activities described as ‘socially responsible’ by the tobacco industry, including but not limited to activities described as ‘corporate social responsibility’.

7. Do not give preferential treatment to the tobacco industry.

8. Treat State-owned tobacco industry in the same way as any other tobacco industry.

Among other important analyses,3-6 the 2009 WHO report, Tobacco Industry Interference in Tobacco Control,7 summarises the most common tobacco industry tactics as follows:   

Table 10A.1 
Tobacco industry interference in tobacco control summary of tactics



Intelligence gathering

To monitor opponents and social trends in order to anticipate future challenges.

Public relations

To mould public opinion, using the media to promote positions favourable to the industry.

Political funding

To use campaign contributions to win votes and legislative favours from politicians.


To make deals and influence political processes.

Consultancy programme

To recruit supposedly independent experts critical of tobacco control measures.

Funding research, including universities

To create doubt about existing evidence of the health effects of tobacco use.

Smokers' rights groups

To create an impression of spontaneous, grass roots public support.

Creating alliances and front groups

To mobilise farmers, retailers, advertising agencies, the hospitality industry, 'grass roots' and anti-tax groups with a view to influencing legislation.


To use legal and economic power as a means of harassing and frightening opponents who support tobacco control.


To buy friends and social respectability from arts, sports and cultural groups.

Corporate social responsibility

To promote voluntary measures as an effective way to address tobacco control and create illusion of being a 'changed' company and to establish partnerships with health interests.

Youth smoking prevention and retailer education programs

To appear as being onside with efforts to prevent children from smoking and to frame smoking as an adult choice


To challenge laws and intimidate tobacco industry opponents.


To undermine tobacco excise tax policies and marketing and trade restrictions and thereby increase profits.

International treaties and other international instruments

To use trade agreements to force entry into closed markets and to challenge the legality of proposed tobacco control legislation.

Joint manufacturing and licensing agreements and voluntary policy agreements with governments

To form joint ventures with state monopolies and subsequently pressure governments to privatise monopolies.


To overrule local or state level of government by taking away its power to act.

Source: World Health Organization, 20097

The following sections discuss some of these strategies in more detail. Several commentators have concluded that systematic and rigorous monitoring of these activities is an essential first step in countering industry interference in tobacco control.8-10  

Relevant news and research

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1. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2003. Available from: http://www.who.int/tobacco/framework/en/.

2. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of the Parties. Elaboration of guidelines for implementation of article 5.3 of the convention. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2008. Available from: http://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf.

3. Sweda EL, Jr and Daynard RA. Tobacco industry tactics. British Medical Bulletin, 1996; 52(1):183–92. Available from: 




4. Saloojee Y and Dagli E. Tobacco industry tactics for resisting public policy on health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2000; 78:902–10. Available from: http://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/78(7)902.pdf

5. Trochim WMK, Stillman FA, Clark PI, and Schmitt CL. Development of a model of the tobacco industry's interference with tobacco control programmes. Tobacco Control, 2003; 12(2):140–7. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/12/2/140  

6. Fox B, Bialous S, Trochim W, Stillman F, and C S. Chapter 8. Evaluating tobacco industry tactics as a counterforce to ASSIST, in Evaluating ASSIST: A blueprint for understanding state-level tobacco control. Bethesda, Maryland: Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute; 2006.  Available from: http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/TCRB/monographs/17/m17_8.pdf.

7. World Health Organization. Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control. World Health Organisation, Geneva: WHO, 2009. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/70894.

8. Morabia A and Costanza MC. Let's not have to hear it through the grapevine. Preventive Medicine, 2009; 48(suppl. 1):S1–2. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743509000036

9. Cruz TB. Monitoring the tobacco use epidemic iv. The vector: Tobacco industry data sources and recommendations for research and evaluation. Preventive Medicine, 2009; 48(suppl.1):S24–34. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743508005136

10. Stillman F, Hoang M, Linton R, Ritthiphakdee B, and Trochim W. Mapping tobacco industry strategies in South East Asia for action planning and surveillance. Tobacco Control, 2008; 17(1):e1. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/17/1/e1