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Tobacco companies interfere with health regulations, WHO reports

Tobacco industry is interfering with government attempts to regulate products and aggressively pursuing new markets in Africa, World Health Organization says

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/19/tobacco-industry-government-policy-interference-regulations

Cigarette manufacturers are attempting to thwart government tobacco controls wherever possible, even as governments make progress regulating the products, a new World Health Organization report has found.

World health officials also warn that tobacco companies have moved their fight to the developing world, such as Africa, where smoking rates are predicted to rise by double digits in the coming decades.

“Tobacco industry interference in government policymaking represents a deadly barrier to advancing health and development in many countries,” said Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO’s department for the prevention of noncommunicable diseases. “But by monitoring and blocking such activities, we can save lives and sow the seeds for a sustainable future for all.”

Tobacco-related diseases are the leading preventable cause of death worldwide. The products kill more than 7 million people each year – more than HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. The effects of the substance are also costly. Researchers believe that tobacco-related harm costs the world $1.4tn in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

A recent investigation by the Guardian found that tobacco companies, including British American Tobacco, threatened African countries with domestic and trade lawsuits if certain anti-smoking measures were put in place. BAT says it is not against all regulations but needs to take action from “time to time”.

A Reuters investigation found that BAT’s arch-rival, Philip Morris International, developed a vast lobbying campaign to delay and prevent tobacco controls. PMI says there is nothing improper about its executives engaging with government officials.

Wednesday’s WHO report, which was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, comes on the same day as a shareholder vote on a $49bn merger between BAT and Reynolds American Incorporated, a deal that would make BAT the largest listed tobacco company in the world.

“The epicentre of this epidemic has moved to the developing world,” said Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of WHO’s convention secretariat. “Low- and middle-income countries struggle to combat a tobacco industry seeking to pursue new markets, often through shameless interference with public health policymaking.”

Currently, the World Health Organization recommends countries put in place six regulations health officials see as critical to reducing smoking: systems to monitor smoking rates; laws to protect people from secondhand smoke; tools to help people quit; warnings about the dangers of tobacco use; enforcement of advertising bans, and increased taxes on tobacco products.

Six in 10 countries have implemented at least one of the six protections, officials said, four times the population that was protected in 2007.

However, progress is lopsided. Some recommendations have been far more widely accepted than others. For example, 3.5 billion people in 78 countries are protected by graphic warnings on cigarette packs, but only 15% of the world’s population is protected by a comprehensive advertising ban, and high tobacco taxes, while very effective, are one of the least-implemented measures.

Even some wealthier nations have had trouble getting tobacco control measures in effect. In the United States, for example, there are no graphic warnings on cigarette packs because of industry lawsuits and regulatory delay, and tobacco taxes remain low.

Anti-tobacco lawmakers and campaigners in the US blame the slow progress on “pervasive” tobacco industry influence, which reaches all the way to top officials in the Trump White House.

“Working together, countries can prevent millions of people from dying each year from preventable tobacco-related illness,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. “Governments around the world must waste no time”.

Bloomberg Philanthropies funds Vital Strategies, which part funds the Guardian’s Tobacco: a deadly business series, the content of which is editorially independent.

Philip Morris takes aim at young people in India, and health officials are fuming

The tobacco giant is pushing Marlboros in colorful ads at kiosks and handing out free smokes at parties frequented by young adults – tactics that break India’s anti-smoking laws, government officials say. Internal documents uncovered by Reuters illuminate the strategy.

http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/pmi-india/

S. K. Arora spent more than three years trudging through the Indian summer heat and monsoon rains to inspect tobacco kiosks across this sprawling megacity, tearing down cigarette advertisements and handing out fines to store owners for putting them up.

But as fast as he removed the colorful ads, more appeared.

The chief tobacco control officer at the Delhi state government, Arora asked the major cigarette companies to put a stop to the cat-and-mouse routine. In official letters and face-to-face meetings, he told them India’s tobacco control laws barred such public advertising and promotion of cigarettes.

That included the Indian arm of Philip Morris International Inc, the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company. Early last year, Arora said, he met with a Philip Morris director for corporate affairs in India, a man named R. Venkatesh, and told him the signs were an unequivocal violation of Indian law.

Like other tobacco companies, Philip Morris kept up its ad blitz.

Venkatesh says Philip Morris is doing nothing wrong. In response to questions from Reuters, he said the company’s advertising is “compliant with Indian law” and that Philip Morris has “fully cooperated with the enforcement authorities” on the matter.

But Indian government officials say Philip Morris is using methods that flout the nation’s tobacco-control regulations. These include tobacco shop displays as well as the free distribution of Marlboro – the world’s best-selling cigarette brand – at nightclubs and bars frequented by young people.

In internal documents, Philip Morris International is explicit about targeting the country’s youth. A key goal is “winning the hearts and minds of LA-24,” those between legal age, 18, and 24, according to one slide in a 2015 commercial review presentation.

As with the point-of-sale ads at kiosks, public health officials say that giving away cigarettes is a violation of India’s Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act and its accompanying rules.

Philip Morris’ marketing strategy for India, which relies heavily on kiosk advertising and social events, is laid out in hundreds of pages of internal documents reviewed by Reuters that cover the period from 2009 to 2016. In them, Philip Morris presents these promotions as key marketing activities. In recent years, they have helped to more than quadruple Marlboro’s market share in India, where the company is battling to expand its reach in the face of an entrenched local giant. Reuters is publishing a selection of those documents in a searchable repository, The Philip Morris Files.

The company’s goal is to make sure that “every adult Indian smoker should be able to buy Marlboro within walking distance,” according to another 2015 strategy document.

In targeting young adults, Philip Morris is deploying a promotional strategy that it and other tobacco companies used in the United States decades ago. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2002 found that during the 1990s, “tobacco industry sponsorship of bars and nightclubs increased dramatically, accompanied by cigarette brand paraphernalia, advertisements, and entertainment events in bars and clubs.”

With cigarette sales declining in many countries, Philip Morris has identified India, population 1.3 billion, as a market with opportunity for significant growth. “India remains a high potential market with huge upside with cigarette market still in infancy,” says a 2014 internal document.

According to government data, India has about 100 million smokers. Of those, about two-thirds smoke traditional hand-rolled cigarettes. Tobacco use kills more than 900,000 people a year in India, and the World Health Organization estimates that tobacco-related diseases cost the country about $16 billion annually.

Philip Morris is not alone in using marketing methods that Indian officials say are illegal. The country’s largest cigarette maker, ITC Ltd, uses similar tactics, such as advertising at kiosks. British American Tobacco Plc and Indian state-run companies have large, passive stakes in ITC, which controls about 80 percent of the market.

Tobacco-control officer Arora, a short, mustachioed man with a gruff demeanor, sent a letter to Philip Morris and other tobacco companies in mid-April, giving them until the end of the month to remove all advertisements. “Legal action will be initiated against the company” if it did not comply, he wrote in the letters, copies of which were reviewed by Reuters.

A day after Arora’s deadline passed, he and his team conducted a raid in an affluent area of cafes and coffee shops in New Delhi that showed his letters did not have the desired effect.

On that hot afternoon in May, the team cut down about a dozen advertisements for Marlboro and various ITC brands. As word of the raid spread, worried vendors covered their ads with newspapers or took them down.

One kiosk owner, Rakesh Kumar Jain, removed his Marlboro ads before Arora’s team arrived. Jain said the signs had been put up by Philip Morris representatives. In return, he said, he received free cigarettes each month worth about 2,000 rupees (about $30). Jain knew that putting up the posters was illegal, but they helped improve sales, he said.

About a dozen kiosk owners interviewed by Reuters said that tobacco companies paid them a monthly fee for advertisements and product displays, with the amount determined by factors such as location, volume of business and type of promotional material.

In payment receipts seen by Reuters, Philip Morris’ India unit promised to pay 500 Indian rupees ($7.50) a month to a cigarette seller with a small roadside kiosk in New Delhi for putting up Marlboro ads. The receipts were signed by a company representative.

During the raid, fines were issued to some vendors, many of them repeat offenders, and they were threatened with court action if the ads went up again.

Like Philip Morris, ITC says that it is in full compliance with India’s 2003 tobacco control law. If it wasn’t, the company said in a statement to Reuters, then “the relevant government authorities would have initiated action.”

Since Arora’s threat of legal action in April, there are fewer Philip Morris advertisements outside cigarette shops in the capital. But both Philip Morris and ITC say that advertising inside a shop is allowed.

“Advertisements of tobacco products at the entrance and inside the shops selling tobacco products are clearly and categorically permitted,” ITC said in response to questions from Reuters.

Arora, however, said all advertising is prohibited – “There are no two ways about it,” he insisted – but he can’t start legal proceedings until getting further guidance from the federal government. He has yet to receive an answer.

Federal health officials say in interviews that the ads are out of bounds. Amal Pusp, a director for tobacco control at the health ministry, told Reuters that “there is no confusion”: All advertisements – inside and outside shops – are illegal.

The 2003 law allows tobacco companies to advertise at shops, but subsequent rules issued by the government prohibit it.

“India remains a high potential market with huge upside with cigarette market still in infancy.”

From a 2014 internal Philip Morris document

In 2004, India became one of the first countries to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty. The pact has 181 members and contains a raft of anti-smoking provisions, including tobacco taxes, warning labels on cigarette packs and advertising bans. The country enacted its national tobacco control law the year before ratifying the FCTC, and since then the government has added rules to strengthen the law in line with the treaty’s provisions.

The health ministry published rules in 2005 that banned any display of brand names, pack images or promotional messages. The rule specified that tobacco retailers could only display a 60-by-45 centimeter board, roughly 24 by 18 inches. The sign can have a description of the type of tobacco products sold – such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco – but cannot include any brand advertising and must carry a large health warning.

The health ministry’s rules were challenged in court by a group of cigarette distributors and put on hold by a state-level High Court for seven years. They finally came into force in 2013 on orders of India’s Supreme Court.

The High Court had overlooked the fact that advertisement of tobacco products “will attract younger generation and innocent minds, who are not aware of grave and adverse consequences of consuming such products,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

Philip Morris has lobbied against the passing of stricter tobacco control rules by the Indian government. In documents detailing the company’s plans for the biennial FCTC treaty convention in India last November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerges as a prime target. A key goal: to pre-empt Modi from taking “extreme anti-tobacco measures” before delegates were to gather from around the world for the treaty meeting, according to a 2014 corporate affairs PowerPoint presentation.

Excerpts from the Philip Morris Files

Reuters reviewed hundreds of pages of internal Philip Morris International documents relating to India. These excerpts show the company’s marketing and lobbying tactics, which are aimed at bolstering the Marlboro brand among young adults and blocking the “enactment of extreme anti-tobacco measures.” Letters from Indian officials detail the government’s efforts to enforce the country’s tobacco control regulations. (Some documents include highlighting by Reuters.)

A slide from a Philip Morris training manual shows the kinds of people the company aims to target for Marlboro sales in India. LAS = legal age smokers.

A slide from a Philip Morris training manual shows the kinds of people the company aims to target for Marlboro sales in India. LAS = legal age smokers.

A slide from a 2014 strategy presentation shows Philip Morris’ goals for marketing Marlboro Red in India. LA-24 = legal age to 24-year-old smokers.

A slide from a 2014 strategy presentation shows Philip Morris’ goals for marketing Marlboro Red in India. LA-24 = legal age to 24-year-old smokers.

This slide from a 2012 marketing presentation shows where Philip Morris planned to target 18-to-24-year-old smokers in India.

This slide from a 2012 marketing presentation shows where Philip Morris planned to target 18-to-24-year-old smokers in India.

A Philip Morris training manual lays out rules for how those marketing its cigarettes should look. FWP = field work personnel.

A Philip Morris training manual lays out rules for how those marketing its cigarettes should look. FWP = field work personnel.

Another slide from the Philip Morris training manual includes instructions for company representatives handing out free cigarettes at kiosks as part of brand promotion. (IPM = India Philip Morris; GPI = Godfrey Phillips India; POS = point of sale.)

Another slide from the Philip Morris training manual includes instructions for company representatives handing out free cigarettes at kiosks as part of brand promotion. (IPM = India Philip Morris; GPI = Godfrey Phillips India; POS = point of sale.)

Kiosk owners in Delhi say that Philip Morris pays them a monthly fee to put up its advertisements. Names have been redacted on this Philip Morris receipt.

Kiosk owners in Delhi say that Philip Morris pays them a monthly fee to put up its advertisements. Names have been redacted on this Philip Morris receipt.

Keshav Desiraju, then a senior health ministry official, wrote to state governments in January 2013, instructing them to stop all tobacco advertisements.

Keshav Desiraju, then a senior health ministry official, wrote to state governments in January 2013, instructing them to stop all tobacco advertisements.

 In April, S.K. Arora, the chief tobacco control officer in Delhi, warned Philip Morris International in a letter that it could face legal action over its advertising.

In April, S.K. Arora, the chief tobacco control officer in Delhi, warned Philip Morris International in a letter that it could face legal action over its advertising.

An excerpt from a 2013 letter from a health ministry official to state governments shows specifications for the board that can be displayed at shops selling tobacco products. According to Indian law, the board cannot include any brand names. Beedis are traditional hand-rolled cigarettes.

An excerpt from a 2013 letter from a health ministry official to state governments shows specifications for the board that can be displayed at shops selling tobacco products. According to Indian law, the board cannot include any brand names. Beedis are traditional hand-rolled cigarettes.

Ahead of the World Health Organization’s global tobacco control treaty meeting in India last November, Philip Morris planned to engage Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an effort to head off new anti-tobacco measures. The slide is from a 2014 corporate affairs document. CoP7 = Conference of the Parties, the biennial treaty meeting.

Ahead of the World Health Organization’s global tobacco control treaty meeting in India last November, Philip Morris planned to engage Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an effort to head off new anti-tobacco measures. The slide is from a 2014 corporate affairs document. CoP7 = Conference of the Parties, the biennial treaty meeting.

The company planned to gain Modi’s ear through those close to him. It identified several people in this group, including Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, and Amit Shah, president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi and the other politicians didn’t respond to requests for comment. Philip Morris International also didn’t comment on the plan.

The tobacco giant’s efforts to fend off anti-smoking steps have had limited impact so far. Last year, for instance, India ordered manufacturers to cover 85 percent of the surface of cigarette packs with health warnings, up from 20 percent. The rule, which is still being challenged in a state court by the tobacco industry, including Philip Morris’ India partner, was implemented by order of the Supreme Court.

Marlboro has just a 1.4 percent share of the almost $10 billion cigarette market in India. The industry is dominated by ITC, which has a strong grip on distributors and retailers.

One major method Philip Morris is deploying to gain ground, the marketing documents show, is the free distribution of cigarettes at bars and nightclubs – known as Legal Age Meeting Points, or LAMPs, in company jargon. The hiring of young women and men to work at these gatherings is outsourced to event management companies, according to people with knowledge of the gatherings.

Some of the recruiting takes place online. “Hey girls…We are searching A++ Hot & Gorgeous girls for the Marlboro pub activity…Pay: 2000/day…Work: Promotion in clubs in Delhi,” read one post on a Facebook public group in June last year. There was no company name attached to the ad.

At several parties attended by Reuters in Delhi and Mumbai, young women dressed in the colors of the latest Marlboro variant handed out packs of cigarettes. During one party at a nightclub in a Delhi hotel, a young woman walked around with a tablet showing an ad that highlighted Marlboro features. A television screen played a video promoting the brand: “For trendsetters, for forward thinkers, a smooth and balanced smoking experience.”

In many ways, it was right out of the Philip Morris 1990s playbook. The American Journal of Public Health study, drawing on previously secret industry documents, found that Philip Morris ran bar promotions in 1990 using racing jackets, and added “neon message boards and cocktail trays” in 1991. The study described methods for collecting names for a company database “to generate smoker profiles, direct mailing campaigns, and conduct telephone research studies after the bar events.”

At the parties in India, people who took the Marlboro packs were asked their names, ages and preferred brands. Philip Morris calls this distribution of free cigarettes “sampling,” which it says in an internal document is allowed under the law.

The company has spent millions of dollars on these activities. In 2014, for example, Philip Morris estimated it spent $1.6 million on LAMP events and sampling at kiosks in India, according to the 2015 commercial review presentation.

The company planned to use LAMPs in 2015 to generate 30,000 “trials,” or samplings of cigarettes. And it planned to generate another 500,000 trials that year through sampling at cigarette shops and kiosks, according to the 2015 strategy document.

The company instructs employees to watch their words. An undated training manual for market researchers says: “Do not say this is a ‘PROMOTION’ or ‘ADVERTISING’.”

Indian health ministry officials say that anyone who hands out free cigarettes, whatever the circumstances, is breaking the law.

The Health Ministry’s Amal Pusp says the law against distribution of free cigarettes is unambiguous. He cites Section 5 of the country’s tobacco control act, which says: “No person, shall, under a contract or otherwise promote or agree to promote the use or consumption of” cigarettes or any other tobacco product. The law carries a fine of up to 1,000 rupees (about $15) and a sentence of up to two years in prison for a first conviction.

“We believe we market our products in a responsible manner, and in compliance with Indian regulations,” Philip Morris’ Venkatesh said, without elaborating.

In October last year, the month before India was due to host delegations from around the world at the biennial FCTC tobacco control conference in Delhi, tobacco-control officer Arora said he suddenly started getting traction.

The cigarette ads vanished and Delhi was “cleaned,” he said.

That success couldn’t have come at a better time for Arora and his colleagues at the federal health ministry: They wanted to make sure foreign delegates visiting India saw the country was serious about its tobacco regulations.

Weeks after the FCTC delegates left town in November, however, kiosks in the capital were again displaying ads for Marlboro.

STOREFRONT ADS: Marlboro advertisements can be seen on this kiosk in a marketplace in New Delhi in April. Despite warnings from health officials, Philip Morris has continued to advertise its Marlboro cigarettes. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

STOREFRONT ADS: Marlboro advertisements can be seen on this kiosk in a marketplace in New Delhi in April. Despite warnings from health officials, Philip Morris has continued to advertise its Marlboro cigarettes. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Additional reporting by Aditi Shah in New Delhi, and Abhirup Roy and Swati Bhat in Mumbai.

The Philip Morris Files
By Aditya Kalra, Paritosh Bansal, Tom Lasseter and Duff Wilson
Design: Troy Dunkley
Photo Editing: Tom White and Altaf Bhat
Edited by Peter Hirschberg

Big tobacco bullies the global south. Trade deals are their biggest weapon

The industry has a long history of using trade to force their products into new markets. This has led to at least a 5% increase in cigarette deaths

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/17/big-tobacco-trade-deals-new-markets-bat

Cigarette packets often carry the warning to “protect children: don’t make them breathe your smoke”. In 2014, the Kenyan government attempted to do just that – banning the sale of single cigarettes, banning smoking in vehicles with a child and keeping the tobacco industry out of initiatives aimed at children and young people.

But as the Guardian reported last week, British American Tobacco, in an effort to keep Kenyans breathing their smoke, fought the regulations on the grounds that they “constitute an unjustifiable barrier to international trade”.

In fact, big tobacco has a long history of using trade and investment rules to force their products on markets in the global south and attack laws and threaten lawmakers that attempt to control tobacco use.

Back in the 1980s, as cigarette consumption fell off in North America and western Europe, US trade officials worked aggressively to grant American companies access to markets in Asia, demanding not only the right to sell their products, but also the right to advertise, sponsor sports events and run free promotions. Smoking rates surged.

In the 1990s, World Trade Organisation agreements led to a liberalisation of the international tobacco trade, with countries reducing import tariffs on tobacco products. The impact, according to a joint study of the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, was a 5% increase in global cigarette consumption and accompanying mortality rates.

Big tobacco’s lawyers were quick to discover the value of “next generation” trade agreements. In the 1990s, Canada dropped a plain packaging initiative after US manufacturers threatened a suit using the first next-gen trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). A few years later, Philip Morris threatened Canada again after it prohibited terms such as “light” and “mild” cigarettes. Philip Morris argued it would be owed millions in compensation for damage to its brand identity.

Philip Morris was able to credibly wield this threat because of the extraordinary powers that Nafta grants international corporations: the right to sue governments in private tribunals over regulations that affect their profits.

A toxic combination of far-reaching and poorly defined “rights” for investors, eye-watering legal costs, and tribunals composed of corporate lawyers with the power to set limitless awards against governments makes investment arbitration and the modern “trade” agreement a formidable weapon to intimidate regulators.

And what big tobacco learned in the global north it has been replicating in the global south, where threats carry greater force against poorer countries that may lack the resources to see down a legal challenge.

In 2010, Philip Morris launched a $25m claim against Uruguay after it introduced graphic warnings on cigarette packs. Though Uruguay successfully defended the measure, it still faced millions in legal costs. And Philip Morris effectively won, as Costa Rica and Paraguay held off introducing similar measures.

Such are the fears around big tobacco’s aggressive use of trade and investment rules that the US-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal featured a carve-out excluding big tobacco from investment protections – an explicit admission of the problem.

But this does not go far enough. The important thing to realise is that the problem goes beyond big tobacco. Big oil, big pharma and big mining follow the same playbook, launching investment arbitration cases to defend their business models from governments that would regulate to protect public health, the local environment or the climate.

Rather than target individual companies or sectors, we must push our governments to reform trade and investment rules that grant such extraordinary powers to corporations. That means removing special investor rights and investment courts from trade agreements. It means removing limits on the freedom of governments to protect public health, labour and human rights and the environment.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, served as deputy in a Reagan administration that pressured countries to open their tobacco markets to US exporters in the 1980s.

Vice-President Mike Pence’s record includes opposing smoking regulation, taking huge campaign donations from big tobacco, and denying the causal link between smoking and lung cancer. The EU commission, meanwhile, has been criticized for its meetings with big tobacco while it was negotiating EU-US trade talks.

The good news is that from Brazil to India to Ecuador, countries are stepping away from outdated trade and investment rules. In the UK, the Labour party manifesto opposes parallel courts for multinationals and proposes to review the UK’s investment treaties.

But until we scrap the powers that we grant big tobacco and others to frustrate and bypass our laws, efforts around the world to protect public health will continue to go up in smoke.

ANTI-TOBACCO : THE PR DAUTZENBERG DENOUNCES THE ACTIONS OF BAT

After the revelations from Reuters about the methods of lobbying from Philip Morris International, it is the turn of British American Tobacco (BAT) to suffer the blowback of its business strategy. And it was Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg, pulmonologist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in paris and secretary general of the Alliance against tobacco, which denounces the strategy of BAT.

https://sivertimes.com/anti-tobacco-the-pr-dautzenberg-denounces-the-actions-of-bat/54893

In a message posted on Twitter and an article in the Figaro, he denounces the attempt to approach the world leader in tobacco, which has sent a registered letter inviting him to discuss ” new product to reduced harm “, to ” change the software regarding the fight against smoking “.

Disagreement on the substance…

Ploom Japan Tobacco, iQos, Philip Morris, Glo BAT : these new devices are the link between the cigarette and the electronic cigarette. They do not use combustion but still contain tobacco. An electrical resistance heater at a low temperature, which would, inter alia, to delete the inhalation of tar and carbon monoxide, according to the manufacturers.

A statement that the Pr Dautzenberg contests. “The industry we swear that this heated tobacco is less toxic than cigarette smoking, but this is not proven at all, and there must be a little bit of burning still, since they found traces of carbon monoxide in the fumes, he said in Le Figaro. Today, tobacco kills one of its faithful consumers. Even if the tobacco said to be less of a risk” not to kill that one in three or one in ten, or even one in a hundred, it’s still unacceptable. “

The doctor also points out that this type of reflection had been carried out on cigarettes light. A reflection at the time supported by a part of the medical community, before it can be recognized that the risk was ultimately the same. Cigarettes light favored only other cancers of the respiratory tract.

Big Tobacco Accused of ‘Dirty War’ Against Smoking Prevention in Africa

In the past, Big Tobacco has been accused of covering up the true extent of the health risks associated with smoking, as well as fighting government restrictions. Now, a new investigation suggests that Big Tobacco is using strong-arm tactics to resist regulations in many parts of Africa.

http://www.care2.com/causes/big-tobacco-accused-of-dirty-war-against-smoking-prevention-in-africa.html

The Guardian reports that after reviewing court documents and other materials, it has uncovered a systematic wave of bullying and intimidation by British American Tobacco. And BAT is soon to close a deal that would make it the world’s leading tobacco company.

The exposé highlights attempts made by BAT to defang, or resist outright, regulation and restriction. For example, the company used threats of economic damage to fight higher taxes on cigarettes, a plan that is standard in the U.S. and much of Europe.

The Guardian reports:

In one undisclosed court document in Kenya, seen by the Guardian, BAT’s lawyers demand the country’s high court “quash in its entirety” a package of anti-smoking regulations and rails against what it calls a “capricious” tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month.

The Guardian has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that tobacco companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.

But we have seen these tactics before.

Starting as early as the 1970s, health warnings about cigarettes began to grab national attention. At that time, tobacco companies used every advertising and legal mechanism they could to prevent further regulation and to avoid plain packaging. As a result, some 70 years after the health dangers of cigarettes came to light, we are only now restricting tobacco in a way that seems appropriate to its risks.

While tobacco companies are in retreat in the West, African, Latin American and now Asian markets have become key areas of interest. As well as exploiting labor in these regions, tobacco companies now want to ensure that their products last long after the West has rejected cigarettes.

For its part, British American Tobacco has always claimed to abide by strict codes of conduct. The company has defended its use of the courts as a means to clear up ambiguous interpretations in local regulation and to ensure international regulations are being followed where appropriate.

British American Tobacco maintains that it does not oppose regulation per se and believes that reasonable restrictions on tobacco are warranted as, tobacco is a harmful product.

However, campaigners have long said that BAT falls short of that standard. Many African nations have signed on to the World Health Organization’s treaty on tobacco control, but that status still needs to be ratified, meaning that no uniform policies exist. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has shown its vulnerability to manipulation by outside businesses with money.

The Guardian exposé highlights this clearly in one extract regarding tobacco regulation in Kenya:

Extract – letter
“If these measures are brought into effect, the economic and social impact will be extremely negative. They could even threaten the continuation of our factory which has operated in Bobo Dioulasso for more than fifty years with more than 210 salaried employees.”

Excerpt from letter from Imperial Tobacco to the prime minister of Burkina Faso, 25 January 2016, concerning new regulations on plain cigarette packaging and large graphic health warnings.

The Sunday Times has previously reported on an investigation which found that BAT sold cheaper, highly addictive cigarettes to Africans in the 1990s. The company also allegedly marketed smoking without sufficient health warnings.

BAT may dispute such claims or suggest that these are simply past infractions. However, more recent reports claim that people affiliated with BAT have attempted to bribe African officials to advance tobacco products in sub-Saharan Africa and to avoid certain regulations.

As of 2016, these allegations — made both by former BAT employees and by outside investigators — even prompted lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to call for a full investigation to determine whether BAT breached any laws due to its involvement in Africa.

Overall, tobacco use remains low across Africa. A major “Lancet” study published in 2010 puts cigarette smokers at about 14 percent of the total population — far below that seen in the Americas. However, data suggests that the rate of smoking uptake is rising at an alarming rate — by as much as four percent per year.

Will the Guardian’s revelations prompt further action against British American Tobacco? That remains to be seen, but we must do everything we can to help African nations get the full facts on tobacco’s health impacts and resist Big Tobacco’s strong-arm tactics.

Tobacco Industry Makes Strides in Trump’s Washington

President Trump may have promised to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists in Washington, but six months into his administration it seems the swamp is winning.

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/tobacco_companies_trump_administration_20170713

A new report published in The Guardian exposes how tobacco companies are gaining significant political victories under Trump, due to lobbying efforts and the fact that tobacco business insiders have been appointed to top positions in the president’s administration. Jessica Glenza explains:

America’s largest cigarette manufacturers, Reynolds American and Altria Group, donated $1.5m to help the new president celebrate his inauguration. The donations allowed executives to dine and mingle with top administration officials and their families.

Not long after Trump promised to transfer power from Washington to the American people, a wave of spending in pursuit of influence was unleashed. In the first quarter of 2017, tobacco companies and trade associations spent $4.7m lobbying federal officials. Altria, the company behind Marlboro, hired 17 lobbying firms. Reynolds, makers of the Camel brand, hired 13, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Since then, tobacco companies have been putting points on the scoreboard. Politicians and officials with deep ties to the tobacco industry now head the US health department, the top attorney’s office and the Senate, even as tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death.

Agencies in charge of reviewing large mergers let a window slip by in which they might have requested information about a $49bn merger between Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). That merger, expected to be voted through by shareholders next week, will make BAT the biggest listed tobacco company in the world, and puts proceeds from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US into the pockets of two companies: Altria and BAT. …

The Food and Drug Administration has twice delayed legal briefs to defend regulations of e-cigarettes, products cigarette makers say are the future. Summer deadlines for cigar and e-cigarette makers to file applications with the FDA, which regulates the products, have all been delayed by the Trump administration.

And the high-profile attorney Noel Francisco, who once argued for Reynolds that including a quit-line phone number on cigarette packs amounted to government advocacy against smoking, has been nominated for the post of solicitor general, the government’s top attorney.

The companies now securing regulatory wins are also partly responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. “For Trump’s inaugural celebration, Reynolds American gave $1m. Altria Group gave $500,000,” Glenza reports. “The US Chamber of Commerce, which has been fiercely pro-tobacco in recent years, gave $25,000.”

Prior to becoming president, Trump profited from tobacco companies, Glenza says. His past financial disclosures “show he earned up to $2.1m from tobacco holdings in diversified portfolios,” although he has since claimed (without offering any proof) to have sold his stocks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of Trump’s administration including Vice President Mike Pence have deep ties to the tobacco industry. Glenza shows the links between tobacco company donations and pro-tobacco policymaking.

“Tobacco industry influence in Washington is pervasive, in many different ways,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a longtime opponent of smoking, tells The Guardian. “As in so many areas, the promise to drain the swamp has been an extraordinary hypocrisy.”

The Guardian view on big tobacco: stop the spread

Companies like British American Tobacco are using the same tactics they used in the global north to delay legislation in the global south

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/12/the-guardian-view-on-big-tobacco-stop-the-spread

Global corporations work hard to persuade the public of their commitment to corporate social responsibility. British American Tobacco, for example, declares on its website that “as the world’s most international tobacco group, we are in a position to take the lead in defining and demonstrating what a socially responsible tobacco company should be”. It goes on to set out five core beliefs that underpin its “high standards of behaviour and integrity”. The evidence that the Guardian is publishing this week – at the start of a two-year project intended to show just how the global tobacco industry works – suggests that the distance between the words and the deeds of this huge and powerful company is about the size of the distance from the developed to the developing world.

A generation of campaigners in western Europe and north America are familiar with the devious tactics that are now in play in Africa and Asia. The wickedly slow pace of change from 1949, when the link between smoking and cancer was first established, to the introduction of plain packaging in the UK nearly 70 years later, owes everything to the sustained campaign the industry fought against regulation that would limit the harm of smoking. It was fought in the public domain, in carefully placed reports that undermined medical research or questioned the impact of proposals like plain packaging. And it was fought privately, in privileged access to politicians, sometimes indirectly by other interested parties. The most notorious example was the Ecclestone affair in 1997, when a Labour pledge to ban tobacco advertising at all sports events was suddenly and inexplicably withdrawn. It soon emerged that the Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone, had donated £1m to Labour, and that there were hopes of more to come.

In the course of those 70 years of delay, millions of people will have taken up smoking and a significant number will have suffered and died because of it. Now the tobacco companies are fast exporting the insidious tactics that worked for so long in the markets of the global north to new ones in the global south. More than half of BAT’s sales are now in emerging markets.

Take the increasingly prosperous East African country of Kenya: its government signed the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004, before it was officially adopted. Yet nearly 15 years later, multinational tobacco firms are still fighting to delay the introduction of anti-smoking laws. As one recent study found, the slower the process of legislation, the greater the scope for tobacco company influence. The WHO reports how companies sponsor sporting events for children, for example, and hand out cigarettes in shopping centres regardless of people’s age. Already, proportionately more Kenyan children are smoking than adults.

It’s not all about the companies. Part of the story is the low priority given to public health: in a country of 45 million people like Kenya, the anti-smoking budget is $45,000. But these are places where tobacco can do business. Tobacco taxes are vital revenue, so the tobacco companies claim that regulation will erode the tax base and provide new opportunities for the black market. And part of it is corruption, the purchase of influence.

As Bath University’s Tobacco Tactics website details, big tobacco’s attempts to delay the introduction of laws to limit the harm of tobacco across Africa follow a familiar pattern: the companies influence politicians, they intimidate tobacco farmers, and they use unrestrained advertising to promote smoking. The companies insist they are only ensuring that legislation is proportionate. These are weasel words. Their tactics are well-funded, well-rehearsed and slick. They worked for years in the old markets. But if tactics can be exported, so can campaigns. BAT is about to become one of the FTSE 100’s top three companies. Reputation matters. Shareholders have leverage – and they should prepare to use it.

Nairobi’s smoking culture – in pictures

In east Africa, the tobacco industry, including British American Tobacco, has been putting pressure on local governments over some of the regulations attempting to curb smoking.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/jul/12/on-the-tobacco-road-david-levene-in-kenya

BAT says it is not against all regulation, but from ‘time to time’ needs to challenge it. BAT Kenya is currently taking a legal case to the country’s supreme court over some regulations.

Every year, more than 6,000 Kenyans are killed by tobacco-linked diseases, part of what the WHO calls the ‘biggest public health threats the world has ever faced’.

Campaigners say the industry is developing its African market and sees new potential customers as populations and prosperity grow there.

David Levene spent some time documenting the country’s smoking culture in Nairobi, noticing the prevalence of cigarette brands in daily life. This collection is gathered from his walks through the city

Facts from Tobacco Atlas

Smoking in public areas in highly restricted in Kenya. These two men sit back in one of central Nairobi’s smoking zones, as designated by the country’s ministry of health. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Smoking in public areas in highly restricted in Kenya. These two men sit back in one of central Nairobi’s smoking zones, as designated by the country’s ministry of health.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Meru, Kenya - Over the past 50 years, Africa has seen a significant increase in tobacco farming. Many farmers suffer from green tobacco sickness, which shares symptoms with nicotine addiction and withdrawal. It’s simply caused by being in consistent contact with the plant, as nicotine can be absorbed through the skin especially when wet. Tanzania, Kenya’s southern neighbor, earns $50 million per year from tobacco but spends $40 million for tobacco- related cancers alone. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Meru, Kenya – Over the past 50 years, Africa has seen a significant increase in tobacco farming. Many farmers suffer from green tobacco sickness, which shares symptoms with nicotine addiction and withdrawal. It’s simply caused by being in consistent contact with the plant, as nicotine can be absorbed through the skin especially when wet. Tanzania, Kenya’s southern neighbor, earns $50 million per year from tobacco but spends $40 million for tobacco- related cancers alone.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Approximately 176 million adult women worldwide are daily smokers and 37 women die every week in Kenya due to tobacco related complications. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Approximately 176 million adult women worldwide are daily smokers and 37 women die every week in Kenya due to tobacco related complications.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

A vendor sells single sticks in central Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. Most Kenyan smokers prefer this to buying whole packs, given the cost.Manufacturers are not allowed to produce cigarettes in packs of less than 10, and they say they want customers to purchase full packs, and that they work with vendors to encourage them to sell them this way.The World Health Organization estimates that people in low-income countries can spend as much as 10% of household income on tobacco products.Uhuru Park is also a key spot for Nairobi’s bourgeoning skate scene. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

A vendor sells single sticks in central Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. Most Kenyan smokers prefer this to buying whole packs, given the cost.Manufacturers are not allowed to produce cigarettes in packs of less than 10, and they say they want customers to purchase full packs, and that they work with vendors to encourage them to sell them this way.The World Health Organization estimates that people in low-income countries can spend as much as 10% of household income on tobacco products.Uhuru Park is also a key spot for Nairobi’s bourgeoning skate scene.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Excises taxes are still the most effective controls against tobacco. In Kenya, they make up 35% of retail price, similar to the US’s 38%. One of the elements of government plans that BAT Kenya is fighting in the court is a new tobacco industry tax.Clear adverts may be outlawed, but still, Kenyans know what is being sold. These red boxes are instantly recognizable. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Excises taxes are still the most effective controls against tobacco. In Kenya, they make up 35% of retail price, similar to the US’s 38%. One of the elements of government plans that BAT Kenya is fighting in the court is a new tobacco industry tax.Clear adverts may be outlawed, but still, Kenyans know what is being sold. These red boxes are instantly recognizable.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The afternoon sets on Enterprise Road in Nairobi’s industrial zone. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The afternoon sets on Enterprise Road in Nairobi’s industrial zone.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

6720 (2)

A smoker in a Nairobi smoking zone Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

A Nairobi smoking zone Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

A Nairobi smoking zone
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Nairobi, Kenya Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Nairobi, Kenya
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The combined revenues of the world’s 6 largest tobacco companies in 2013 was USD342 Billion, 85% larger than the Gross National Income of Kenya Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The combined revenues of the world’s 6 largest tobacco companies in 2013 was USD342 Billion, 85% larger than the Gross National Income of Kenya
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Big tobacco still sees big business in America’s poor

The US is pegged as an ‘exciting’ market, but this growth disproportionately affects the poor – including the industry’s growers and laborers

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/13/tobacco-industry-america-poor-west-virginia-north-carolina

Wheeling his oxygen tank in behind him, Leslie E Adams shuffled into the lung doctor’s exam room and let out a long string of rattling coughs. He tried to catch his breath, and coughed some more. He is 63, but looks a decade older.

“I got stage three black lung. There ain’t no stage four. I’m on my way out,” said Adams. “Now, I am slowly going down the mountain.”

The American smoking rate has plummeted since the mid-20th century. Yet somehow the US remains a growth market. That is partly because the proportion of smokers has fallen, but the overall population is rising.

Add a nation bedeviled by inequality and those public health gains, while significant, have simply not reached every corner of the country.

With low taxes on cigarettes, intermittent regulations and tobacco-friendly politicians, many US states still mirror conditions around the developing world where tobacco companies see potential.

West Virginia arguably has the highest smoking rate in the nation. In places such as Logan County, where Adams, a retired coal miner, is from, the smoking rate was 37% in 2015. The last time the national average matched that was 1974.

“I smoked Winston, I smoked Viceroy. I don’t know what I was smoking last, I couldn’t tell you,” said Adams, about brands that once belonged to the tobacco giants Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). “I just smoked anything. If it blowed smoke, I smoked it.” Adams is disabled with stage three pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung.

Adams will tell you he quit, but the truth is, after seven days in the hospital on a ventilator, he still tried to smoke three times. “I smoked about a half a one, and it just – I mean your lungs – it just takes all the oxygen out of them.”

Despite smoking bans, hundred-billion-dollar settlements and a smaller proportion of the American public smoking, Reynolds’ longtime ally BAT sees the US as “an exciting opportunity for long-term growth”.

Through the years, as the population rose, the proportion of Americans who smoke shrank, but their raw numbers stayed the same, at around 45 million smokers. Further, since the 1990s, the threat of tobacco litigation diminished and regulations proved less costly than feared, leaving tobacco companies room to increase the price of a pack. In America, where cigarettes are still relatively cheap, BAT only needs to sell two packs of cigarettes to make the same profit as it would selling six in other markets.

America is “highly attractive” and the “world’s largest tobacco profit pool” outside of China, BAT’s chief executive, Nicandro Durante, said, as he described a $49bn deal to buy Reynolds American in January. The deal will make BAT the largest listed tobacco company in the world.

It also means revenue from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US will be pocketed by BAT and a rival group of companies – Altria Group, a US Philip Morris company. Not since Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency has tobacco been so consolidated.

Mergers and acquisitions have allowed tobacco companies to squeeze profits from customers and the supply chain. Companies charge more for cigarettes, while union organizers say “poverty wages” keep families on the ropes. Both are trends seen worldwide.

At the same time, the typical profile of smokers has changed radically. In 50 years, smoking moved from glamorous to commonplace. Wealthy Americans have the lowest smoking rates, and the middle class has increasingly quit; instead, smoking has become a burden of the poor, less educated and marginalized.

The $49bn merger between BAT and Reynolds, expected within weeks, is the most recent act of faith by tobacco companies that selling cigarettes to Americans will remain profitable long into the future, even if the Americans who buy them can’t afford it.

***

As a young man, Adams worked in mines so tight he lay on his belly to dig. He dug his own hole for urination. When he learned mine owners handed out dust masks that didn’t work, he sued.

Adams lives in the Appalachian mountains, in a valley between two green hills affectionately called a “holler”. He and his wife had two daughters and a son, and those children had eight of their own.

He started smoking at eight, sneaking beside the creek to puff corn silk. He smoked cigarettes for 40 years. Now, after one son died of a drug overdose, unable to chase after his grandkids and still craving cigarettes, Adams questions whether cigarettes should be legal at all.

“They got so many drugs in there you couldn’t quit if you wanted to. I still crave them. If I had one right now, and I’d go to sleep, you’d hold it, I’d smoke it in my sleep,” he said. “That’s how bad you crave them.”

Dr Tom Takubo sees more than 30 patients like Adams each day at his clinic in Charleston. His is the largest pulmonology office in West Virginia. Set in the capital of a rural state in a rural region, Takubo sees patients from as far away as northern Kentucky and southern Ohio.

“Even if smoking dropped off today, I would probably be going for the rest of my career,” said Takubo.

No one is allowed to smoke in his office, but even so, the air smells faintly of cigarettes. Takubo’s patients carry the scent of the smokes they prefer. Former miners, shop owners and factory workers waiting for their appointments named L&Ms (by Altria) or Salems (by Reynolds) as their go-to brands. One woman said she smoked whatever cigarettes were cheapest, and called them “floor sweepings”.

Takubo estimates 80% of his patients see him for smoking-related diseases. “Cancer, acute bronchitis, flare-ups of their asthma,” he said, naming a few.

The national adult smoking rate dropped from 42.4% in 1965 to 16.8% in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But in West Virginia, the smoking rate in 2014 was still 26%, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One researcher with RWJF called the rate “extraordinarily high”.

When he is not seeing patients, Takubo has another role. He is also a Republican state senator in West Virginia, putting him in the unique position of treating the same people whose cigarette taxes he hopes to raise. He is occasionally told by a patient: “Now, doc, don’t raise the price of my cigarettes.”

“It’s really hard for me, because you hear people argue for financial reasons, for freedom of choice,” Takubo said about his fellow legislators, shaking his head. This year, inspired by a patient, Takubo introduced a bill that would have fined adults for smoking in the car with a child.

“I have a patient that’s lost about half of her lung function. She’s never smoked a day in her life,” he said. Instead, her father smoked in the car. “If she complained about it, he would roll the window up to teach her a lesson. She remembers even getting in the floorboard of the car because she couldn’t breath.”

But the bill was not successful. Takubo’s fellow Republicans voted it down.

West Virginia is also the epicenter of America’s drug overdose epidemic, but lung and throat cancer have proven far deadlier than opioids.

Drug overdoses killed 41 people for every 100,000 in West Virginia in 2015. The same year, lung and throat cancer killed tripled that number in south-western counties, such as Calhoun. There, those two diseases alone killed 123 people for every 100,000, according to the state’s health department.

The same year, 46% of adults in Calhoun smoked, RWJF found. The West Virginia department of health estimates that one in five deaths of people over 35 are due to smoking.

West Virginia scores badly on every imaginable indicator of poverty and inequality. Takubo has also argued increased tobacco taxes could bring the state significant financial relief. A $1 tax would have generated $100m in revenue for a state that had a $380m shortfall in 2016, and which spends $277m annually on smoking-related diseases. That too failed, although Takubo did help get a 65-cent tobacco tax passed.

Now, fearing Republicans in Washington will pass a healthcare reform bill that could severely cut Medicaid, a public health program for the poor, Takubo said simply: “That would kill us.”

State of the nation
In Washington DC, things have also changed in the halls of Congress. People who still smoke stand out, and perhaps for a good reason – Congress is mostly well educated and wealthy. Every single US senator has a college degree, and just 5% of the House of Representatives lack one. Most members of Congress are millionaires.

Today, someone with a high school equivalency diploma is nine times more likely to smoke (34.1%) than someone with a graduate degree (3.6%). A poll found Americans who earn between $6,000 and $11,999 are more than twice as likely to smoke as someone who earns more than $90,000.

Even 10 years ago, the “offensive and very strong” odor of a cigar prompted an aide in the Democratic representative Keith Ellison’s office to call the Capitol police on a congressman. Last year, the Republican House speaker, Paul Ryan, took pains to “detoxify” his predecessor’s office, a suite held by former speaker John Boehner. Boehner is a Camel smoker. He now sits on Reynolds’ board.

Tobacco companies don’t spend as much money lobbying Congress as they once did. They spent $72m trying to persuade lawmakers to see their perspective in 1998, compared to $19m in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But they have not abandoned political spending. They have shifted strategies.

Last year, Altria and RJ Reynolds spent $71.3m in California trying beat back a cigarette tax hike referendum. They failed there, but succeeded elsewhere. In North Dakota, tobacco companies spent more than $5 for every man, woman and child in the state, $4m altogether, and convinced voters to reject the tax. They also succeeded in Colorado, where they spent $7m.

States were awarded billions in damages from tobacco companies in recognition of the public health consequences. Yet they largely fail to spend the money they were awarded to prevent smoking. States collected $26.6bn from tobacco settlements in 2016, but spent only 1.8% on smoking prevention, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Tobacco companies, by comparison, spend $9.1bn a year on marketing, or $1m an hour, according to an analysis of Federal Trade Commission data.

North Carolina, America’s dominant tobacco-producing state, receives $139m annually from such tobacco settlements. Initially, the state set up three trust funds to spend that money: one to prevent smoking, one to help rural communities hit by a decline in smoking and one to help tobacco farmers.

The fund to prevent smoking was dismantled in 2011; all of that money was sucked into the state’s general fund. However, lawmakers allowed the settlement to continue to fund tobacco growing efforts.

Between 2000 and 2004, another $41m of North Carolina’s tobacco settlement went to retrofit tobacco curing barns, a move that researchers called “arguably counter-productive to tobacco control”, and which some farmers believed was at the behest of tobacco manufacturers.

“From our very first day, there was a constant struggle with the legislature,” said Vandana Shah, the first policy director of the tobacco use prevention fund in North Carolina. She now works for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “I’d be doing the rounds of begging and pleading that they don’t take our money away, and explaining the value of the program.”

Winston-Salem, AKA ‘Camel City’
Reynolds American’s hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has developed a relatively strict tobacco policy. An after-dinner cigarette in “Camel City” must be smoked outside, and finding a hotel room to smoke in is a significant task.

The regulations are reflective of how cities have handled smoking in recent years. Even Reynolds employees who smoke must use smoking lounges away from their colleagues.

Tobacco companies, said Gayle Anderson, the head of the Winston-Salem chamber of commerce, “really didn’t fight these laws at all … There just didn’t seem to be that kind of pushback.” She worked for Reynolds from 1976 to 1987.

Once North Carolina’s largest city, Winston-Salem enjoyed a golden era on Reynolds’ wealth. “The moneyed families that ran the factories and mills shared their wealth with the community, endowing it with high schools, auditoriums, hospitals, stadiums, parks and recreational facilities bearing their names,” the local history From Tobacco to Technology said about the 1930s. “Their executives chaired the charities and the capital campaigns to raise money needed to achieve the community’s objections, be it a new terminal at the airport, an arts council for the city or assistance in relocating a college to the city.”

Reynolds still employs about 5,000 people in Winston-Salem, according to Anderson. For many years the notion was: “If you could get in at Reynolds, you were set for life,” she said.

Reynolds recently donated a 70,000 sq ft, immaculately maintained research facility to the town for redevelopment. Reynolds, Anderson said, “is still probably the single largest philanthropic company”.

“I can’t imagine how many hundreds of millions of dollars that’s worth,” said Anderson. “They’re benevolent and care a lot about the community, but it’s more like a partnership.” If Reynolds were to ever leave, “it would be a real blow to our ego, for sure”.

‘We’re down here getting sick, going hungry’

If the company is seen by some as benevolent, that does not necessarily translate to automatic financial security for farmers and their workers. One twentysomething farmer stood by a running tractor as he described the start of each tobacco season in eastern North Carolina. It begins, he said, “with a loan from the bank that you don’t know if you’re gonna pay back”.

He started cutting tobacco in a friend’s field when he was about eight years old, the farmer said. As he smoked a Camel menthol, he acknowledged: “I shouldn’t, as much shit as I spray on it.”

For farmers, the tobacco system has changed considerably since the 1990s. Auctions are obsolete. Now, farmers contract directly with cigarette manufacturers or leaf buyers. This farmer’s entire crop is contracted to Alliance One, one of two major leaf companies.

Labor disputes are common here. Farmers can face cash shortfalls mid-season, making it difficult to pay workers on time. Farm laborers have no collective bargaining rights in the US, and child labor is legal on farms. Children as young as 12 can start working unlimited hours outside of school, and children of any age can work on a family-owned tobacco farm.

With only a handful of companies left to sell to – Philip Morris International, Altria, BAT, Japan Tobacco International and two leaf buyers who serve the same companies – farmers feel at the behest of tobacco companies, those interviewed by the Guardian said. This year, some tobacco buyers didn’t offer farmers formal contracts until spring, when tobacco was already growing in greenhouses.

Nevertheless, after a long fight with the Mount Olive Pickle Company, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Floc) secured a collective bargaining agreement with farmers in the North Carolina Growers Association. Several tobacco companies used farmers in the association, thus some tobacco workers were also covered. Last year alone, Floc handled around 500 total labor complaints, often for wage violations. But their influence is small: the union represents just 7% of North Carolina’s 100,000 workers.

The group has asked BAT to recognize a right to organize for all farm workers worldwide, and blames low pay for frequent disputes.

“I think they should pay more,” said Sintia Castillo, a labor organizer for Floc, whose accent reflects her heritage. Some words come out North Carolina country, others with a snap of second-generation Spanish. “You’re rolling in money at the top, and we’re down here getting sick, going hungry.”

Castillo has six brothers and sisters, and started working in the fields with her family at age seven. She moved to tobacco around 13 and into packing houses at 18. Now she’s 24, a woman whose work has acquainted her with the paradox of organizing people without rights.

“There’s been times I fire people up, and then they get fired,” she said.

She tells a story about Brent Jackson, a state senator and tobacco farmer. Jackson was forced to repay several thousand dollars in back wages after he was sued in federal court by migrant workers. The union then alleged he “blacklisted” the seven farmworkers. Jackson pulled out of the growers association.

Last week, he sponsored a bill to make it illegal for farmers to deduct union dues from paychecks, or for growers to end a dispute with farmworkers by signing a union contract. The bill is currently on the governor’s desk. Campaign finance records show Jackson received $9,400 in donations from tobacco companies.

“Child labor exists because of poverty wages. There’s no way that a family can live off of $7.25 per hour,” said Catherine Crowe, an organizer with Floc. Forcing children not to work without increasing wages, the union contends, would only leave struggling families worse off.

Philip Morris International and Alliance One have said they do not buy tobacco from farms that employ children under 18 for most tasks and, in general, tobacco companies have said growers are “not our employees”. Nevertheless, tobacco company audits have identified many instances of child labor in the supply chain.

In the past, Crowe and Castillo said, BAT has shown more willingness to work with the organizing committee, promising to encourage Reynolds to listen to union demands. As for how the unified company will act in the future: “That,” said Crowe, “is the question.”

This article was amended on 13 July 2017 to clarify Vandana Shah’s position with the North Carolina tobacco use prevention fund.

Inside Philip Morris’ campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty

The world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company is deploying its vast resources against international efforts to reduce smoking. Internal documents uncovered by Reuters reveal details of the secret operation.

http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/pmi-who-fctc/

A group of cigarette company executives stood in the lobby of a drab convention center near New Delhi last November. They were waiting for credentials to enter the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty conference, one designed to curb smoking and combat the influence of the cigarette industry.

Treaty officials didn’t want them there. But still, among those lined up hoping to get in were executives from Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco Plc.

There was a big name missing from the group: Philip Morris International Inc. A Philip Morris representative later told Reuters its employees didn’t turn up because the company knew it wasn’t welcome.

In fact, executives from the largest publicly traded tobacco firm had flown in from around the world to New Delhi for the anti-tobacco meeting. Unknown to treaty organizers, they were staying at a hotel an hour from the convention center, working from an operations room there. Philip Morris International would soon be holding secret meetings with delegates from the government of Vietnam and other treaty members.

The object of these clandestine activities: the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, a treaty aimed at reducing smoking globally. Reuters has found that Philip Morris International is running a secretive campaign to block or weaken treaty provisions that save millions of lives by curbing tobacco use.

In an internal document, the company says it supported the enactment of the treaty. But Philip Morris has come to view it as a “regulatory runaway train” driven by “anti-tobacco extremists” – a description contained in the document, a 2014 PowerPoint presentation.

Confidential company documents and interviews with current and former Philip Morris employees reveal an offensive that stretches from the Americas to Africa to Asia, from hardscrabble tobacco fields to the halls of political power, in what may be one of the broadest corporate lobbying efforts in existence.

Details of those plans are laid bare in a cache of Philip Morris documents reviewed by Reuters, one of the largest tobacco industry leaks ever. Reuters is publishing a selection of those papers in a searchable repository, The Philip Morris Files.

Dating from 2009 to 2016, the thousands of pages include emails between executives, PowerPoint presentations, planning papers, policy toolkits, national lobbying plans and market analyses. Taken as a whole, they present a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.

Philip Morris works to subvert the treaty on multiple levels. It targets the FCTC conferences where delegates gather to decide on anti-smoking guidelines. It also lobbies at the country level, where the makeup of FCTC delegations is determined and treaty decisions are turned into legislation.

Excerpts from the Philip Morris Files

Reuters uncovered thousands of pages of internal Philip Morris International documents. These excerpts show the company’s tactics for combating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, a treaty aimed at reducing smoking worldwide. (Some documents include highlighting by Reuters; some names have been redacted.)

01

A slide from a 2014 Philip Morris corporate affairs presentation about the FCTC, the global anti-smoking treaty. CoP5 and CoP6 refer to the biennial meetings of treaty nations in 2012 and 2014. “ENDS” refers to e-cigarettes.

Another slide from the 2014 PowerPoint presentation. “Paradigm shift” refers to an expected boom in what the company calls “reduced-risk products.”

Another slide from the 2014 PowerPoint presentation. “Paradigm shift” refers to an expected boom in what the company calls “reduced-risk products.”

A slide from the 2014 presentation shows Philip Morris plans for tracking anti-smoking groups, which the company calls anti-tobacco organizations, or ATOs.

A slide from the 2014 presentation shows Philip Morris plans for tracking anti-smoking groups, which the company calls anti-tobacco organizations, or ATOs.

The same 2014 document shows objectives for corporate affairs executives. “Roadblocks” refers to delays in implementing anti-smoking steps. “MoH” refers to ministries of health.

The same 2014 document shows objectives for corporate affairs executives. “Roadblocks” refers to delays in implementing anti-smoking steps. “MoH” refers to ministries of health.

Another slide from the 2014 document shows the characteristics that a Philip Morris corporate affairs (“CA”) person should possess.

Another slide from the 2014 document shows the characteristics that a Philip Morris corporate affairs (“CA”) person should possess.

A more detailed account of Philip Morris’ corporate affairs tactics from the same 2014 presentation.

A more detailed account of Philip Morris’ corporate affairs tactics from the same 2014 presentation.

A list of methods the company has devised for opposing the implementation of plain packaging, a measure advocated by the FCTC that bars the use of logos and distinctive coloring on cigarette packs.

A list of methods the company has devised for opposing the implementation of plain packaging, a measure advocated by the FCTC that bars the use of logos and distinctive coloring on cigarette packs.

This slide from the 2014 presentation shows some of the resources Philip Morris deployed at the FCTC treaty meeting in Moscow that year (CoP6), as the company looked ahead to the 2016 session in New Delhi (CoP7). ITGA = the International Tobacco Growers’ Association.

This slide from the 2014 presentation shows some of the resources Philip Morris deployed at the FCTC treaty meeting in Moscow that year (CoP6), as the company looked ahead to the 2016 session in New Delhi (CoP7). ITGA = the International Tobacco Growers’ Association.

Philip Morris pushes for more delegates to FCTC treaty meetings from government agencies that deal with economic and trade issues. This slide from the 2014 presentation shows the company’s plan to lobby for more delegates from outside of public health on India’s delegation at the treaty meeting last year.

Philip Morris pushes for more delegates to FCTC treaty meetings from government agencies that deal with economic and trade issues. This slide from the 2014 presentation shows the company’s plan to lobby for more delegates from outside of public health on India’s delegation at the treaty meeting last year.

Excerpt from an October 18, 2014, email from Chris Koddermann, who led the Philip Morris team at the treaty meeting in Moscow that year.

Excerpt from an October 18, 2014, email from Chris Koddermann, who led the Philip Morris team at the treaty meeting in Moscow that year.

An October 18, 2014, email from Nguyen Thanh Ky, a Philip Morris corporate affairs executive, about his meeting with the Vietnamese delegation to the 2014 Moscow treaty conference.

An October 18, 2014, email from Nguyen Thanh Ky, a Philip Morris corporate affairs executive, about his meeting with the Vietnamese delegation to the 2014 Moscow treaty conference.

Excerpt from an October 2014 email from Gustavo Bosio, then Philip Morris manager for international trade, a few days after the end of the Moscow meeting.

Excerpt from an October 2014 email from Gustavo Bosio, then Philip Morris manager for international trade, a few days after the end of the Moscow meeting.

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on trade arguments, ahead of the treaty meeting in India last year. The company has long argued that the biennial Conference of the Parties (COP) should leave trade issues to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on trade arguments, ahead of the treaty meeting in India last year. The company has long argued that the biennial Conference of the Parties (COP) should leave trade issues to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on potential risks ahead of the treaty meeting last year, “COP7” in India. ENDS, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, refers to electronic cigarettes.

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on potential risks ahead of the treaty meeting last year, “COP7” in India. ENDS, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, refers to electronic cigarettes.

Excerpt from a 2011 draft Philip Morris plan for responding to moves in Israel to pass new anti-smoking measures.

Excerpt from a 2011 draft Philip Morris plan for responding to moves in Israel to pass new anti-smoking measures.

 In this slide from a Japan corporate affairs presentation, some ministers in the Japanese cabinet are identified according to their positions on tobacco. The two ministers designated “Pro-tobacco” did not respond to questions from Reuters.

In this slide from a Japan corporate affairs presentation, some ministers in the Japanese cabinet are identified according to their positions on tobacco. The two ministers designated “Pro-tobacco” did not respond to questions from Reuters.

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, talks about Philip Morris Japan maintaining good relations with members of Japan’s FCTC delegation, and a Philip Morris executive meeting with members of the country’s FCTC delegation. (MOF = Ministry of Finance; MOFA = Ministry of Foreign Affairs; JT = Japan Tobacco.)

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, talks about Philip Morris Japan maintaining good relations with members of Japan’s FCTC delegation, and a Philip Morris executive meeting with members of the country’s FCTC delegation. (MOF = Ministry of Finance; MOFA = Ministry of Foreign Affairs; JT = Japan Tobacco.)

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, reveals the company’s plans for opposing moves in Australia to bar the use of logos or distinctive coloring on cigarette packs. The measure is known as plain packaging, or PP. The Tobacco Institute of Japan, or TIOJ, declined to comment.

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, reveals the company’s plans for opposing moves in Australia to bar the use of logos or distinctive coloring on cigarette packs. The measure is known as plain packaging, or PP. The Tobacco Institute of Japan, or TIOJ, declined to comment.

A slide from a Philip Morris training document.

A slide from a Philip Morris training document.

“Our everyday business”

Philip Morris International’s full response to Reuters findings:

“As a company in a highly regulated industry, speaking with governments is part of our everyday business. We publicly supported the creation of the framework convention on tobacco control, were involved in the consultation process prior to its establishment, but have not since been invited to contribute to any discussions on tobacco control measures. With our product knowledge, technical expertise and our vision to replace cigarettes with less harmful alternatives, we believe we have something to contribute and we look for a range of legitimate opportunities to express our views to decision-makers. The fact that Reuters has seen internal emails discussing our engagement with governments does not make those interactions inappropriate. We believe that the active participation of public health experts, policy-makers, scientists, and the industry is the best way to effectively address tobacco regulations in the genuine interest of today’s billion smokers. It is our hope that moving forward, all tobacco policy makers will invite open dialogue, and in the meantime we will continue to speak with governments about policies that can address the impact of smoking on health.”

– Tony Snyder, Vice President of Communications, Philip Morris International

The documents, combined with reporting in 14 countries from Brazil to Uganda to Vietnam, reveal that a goal of Philip Morris is to increase the number of delegates at the treaty conventions who are not from health ministries or involved in public health. That’s happening: A Reuters analysis of delegates to the FCTC’s biennial conference shows a rise since the first convention in 2006 in the number of officials from ministries like trade, finance and agriculture for whom tobacco revenues can be a higher priority than health concerns.

Philip Morris International says there is nothing improper about its executives engaging with government officials. “As a company in a highly regulated industry, speaking with governments is part of our everyday business,” Tony Snyder, vice president of communications, said in a statement in response to Reuters’ findings. “The fact that Reuters has seen internal emails discussing our engagement with governments does not make those interactions inappropriate.”

In a series of interviews in Europe and Asia, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave said company employees are under strict instructions to obey both the company’s own conduct policies and local law in the countries where they operate. Cave, a director of corporate affairs, said that while Philip Morris disagrees with some aspects of the FCTC treaty and consults with delegates offsite during its conferences, ultimately the delegations “make their own decisions.”

“We’re respectful of the fact that this is their week and their event,” said Cave in an interview in New Delhi, as the parties to the treaty met last November. Asked in an earlier interview whether Philip Morris conducts a formal campaign targeting the treaty’s biennial conferences, Cave gave a flat “no.”

When the FCTC delegates gather, lives hang in the balance. Decisions taken at the conferences over the past decade, including a ban on smoking in public places, are saving millions of lives, according to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Between 2007 and 2014, more than 53 million people in 88 countries stopped smoking because those nations imposed stringent anti-smoking measures recommended by the WHO, according to their December 2016 study. Because of the treaty, an estimated 22 million smoking-related deaths will be averted, the researchers found.

According to the WHO, though, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death – and by 2030 will be responsible for eight million deaths a year, up from six million now.

There was jubilation among anti-smoking advocates when the treaty was adopted in 2003. The treaty, which took effect in 2005, made it possible to push for measures that once seemed radical, such as smoke-free bars. About 90 percent of all nations eventually joined. A big holdout is the United States, which signed the treaty but has yet to ratify it.

Since the FCTC came into force, it has persuaded dozens of nations to boost taxes on tobacco products, pass laws banning smoking in public places and increase the size of health warnings on cigarette packs. Treaty members gather every two years to consider new provisions or strengthen old ones at a meeting called the Conference of the Parties, or COP, which first convened in 2006 in Geneva.

But an FCTC report shows that implementation of important sections of the treaty is stalling. There has been no further progress in the implementation of 7 out of 16 “substantive” treaty articles since 2014, according to a report by the FCTC Secretariat in June last year.

A key reason: “The tobacco industry continues to be the most important barrier in implementation of the Convention.”

Indeed, the tobacco industry has weathered the tighter regulation. There has been only a slight 1.9 percent decline in global cigarette sales since the treaty took effect in 2005, and more people smoked daily in 2015 than a decade earlier, studies show. The Thomson Reuters Global Tobacco Index, which tracks tobacco stocks, has risen more than 100 percent in the past decade, largely due to price increases.

“Some people think that with tobacco, you’ve won the battle,” said former Finnish Health Minister Pekka Puska, who chaired an FCTC committee last year. “No way,” he said. “The tobacco industry is more powerful than ever.”

With 600 corporate affairs executives, according to a November 2015 internal email, Philip Morris has one of the world’s biggest corporate lobbying arms. That army, and $7 billion-plus in annual net profit, gives Philip Morris the resources to overwhelm the FCTC.

The treaty is overseen by 19 staff at a Secretariat office hosted by the WHO in Geneva. The Secretariat spends on average less than $6 million a year. Even when buttressed by anti-smoking groups, the Secretariat is outgunned. Its budget for this year and last year for supporting the treaty clause on combating tobacco company influence is less than $460,000.

Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the FCTC treaty Secretariat, is the person tasked with preventing the industry from neutering the agreement.

In two interviews at her Geneva office, da Costa e Silva, a medical doctor who holds a PhD in public health and has a dyed pink streak in her hair, explained why the FCTC banned attendance by any member of the public at the 2014 biennial conference in Moscow. The ban came in response to efforts by tobacco executives to use public badges to get inside the venue, she said, adding that industry representatives then started borrowing badges from delegates they knew to gain entry.

“It’s a real war,” said da Costa e Silva.

tobacco

“Some people think that with tobacco, you’ve won the battle. No way… The tobacco industry is more powerful than ever.”

Former Finnish Health Minister Pekka Puska, who chaired an FCTC committee last year

But she had only a partial picture of the forces ranged against her. She wasn’t aware of the fact that Philip Morris had a large team operating throughout the convention in Moscow, or the details of its activities in New Delhi last November.

“This is so disgusting. These are the forces against which we have to work,” da Costa e Silva said in May after being told about the Philip Morris documents. “I think they want to implode the treaty.”

The idea of a global tobacco treaty had been discussed among health advocates since at least 1979, when a WHO committee suggested the possibility. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway who became director-general of the WHO in 1998, made it happen.

She was aided by outrage over documents that surfaced as part of the landmark 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, in which the four largest U.S. tobacco companies agreed to pay more than $200 billion to 46 U.S. states. The internal communications showed that tobacco executives lied for years about their knowledge of the deadly nature of cigarettes.

A 1989 document revealed one company’s plan to fight threats to the industry. “WHO’s impact and influence is indisputable,” the document said. It went on to contemplate “countermeasures designed to contain/neutralize/re-orient the WHO.”

That company was Philip Morris.

In 2008, Altria Group Inc split up its Philip Morris business. Philip Morris USA, which remains a subsidiary of Altria, sells Marlboro and other brands in the United States. Philip Morris International was spun off, and handles business abroad. Since the split, Philip Morris International shares have more than doubled and Altria’s have more than tripled.

Philip Morris International’s operational headquarters are in Lausanne, Switzerland, down the street from a patch of Gallo-Roman ruins, in a sleek building with a cafeteria, gym and a patio facing Lake Geneva. From there, the company is working to hobble the treaty.

Internal company communications reveal the scope of Philip Morris’ operation during the 2014 FCTC treaty meeting in Moscow. The company set up a “Coordinating Room” that could seat 42 people, according to the 2014 PowerPoint presentation, titled “Corporate affairs approach and issues.”

Leading the operation was executive Chris Koddermann. Formerly a lawyer and lobbyist in Canada, Koddermann joined Philip Morris in 2010. He is now a director of regulatory affairs in Lausanne. The PowerPoint describes the ideal corporate affairs executive as someone who is able to “play the political game.” Koddermann previously worked for federal and provincial cabinet ministers in Canada, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Reached on his cell phone in March, Koddermann said he wouldn’t be able to meet and that any questions should be directed to Philip Morris International.

At the end of the Moscow meeting, on Oct. 18, 2014, Koddermann sent an email congratulating a 33-person Philip Morris team on their success in diluting or blocking measures intended to strengthen tobacco controls and reduce cigarette sales. The gains he touted at the end of the week-long conference were the culmination of a two-year effort, his email said.

The documents shed light on one key objective in Philip Morris’ FCTC campaign: Keep tobacco within the ambit of international trade deals, so that the company has a way to mount legal campaigns against tobacco regulations.

In Moscow, one proposal initially called for carving out tobacco from trade pacts. International trade treaties often include provisions, such as the protection of trademarks, that Philip Morris has used to challenge anti-smoking measures. If tobacco were taken out of the treaties, as suggested by the proposal, Philip Morris could be deprived of many such legal arguments.

An early draft asked parties to support efforts to exclude tobacco from trade pacts and to prevent the industry from “abusing” trade and investment rules. In the end, the proposal was watered down. The final decision only reminded parties of “the possibility to take into account their public health objectives in their negotiation of trade and investment agreements.” There was no mention of excluding tobacco.

Koddermann, in his email to colleagues on the last day of the conference, declared victory, describing the change as “a tremendous outcome.” Overall, the company achieved its “trade related campaign objectives,” including “avoiding a declaration of health over trade” and “avoiding the recognition of the FCTC as an international standard,” he wrote.

The win was significant. A former Philip Morris employee said the company has routinely used trade treaties to challenge tobacco control laws. The aim, he said, was “to scare governments away from doing regulatory changes.” Even though the tobacco industry has lost a series of major legal battles, its suits have served to discourage the implementation of regulations that curb smoking. Those delays can yield years of unimpeded sales.

As the Philip Morris PowerPoint presentation from 2014 put it: “Roadblocks are as important as solutions.”

One roadblock was a campaign to stop the 2011 introduction of rules in Australia banning logos and distinctive coloring on cigarette packs. The company’s litigation and arbitration against the measure ultimately were dismissed – but not before five countries filed complaints against Australia on the same subject at the World Trade Organization. The global trade body has yet to announce a decision in the matter.

The attempt to undo Australia’s regulations has had a chilling effect elsewhere. It slowed the introduction of plain-packaging rules in New Zealand. Citing the risk that tobacco companies may “mount legal challenges,” the government announced in 2013 that it was postponing the move and waiting to “see what happens with Australia’s legal cases.” The legislation is now scheduled to go into effect next year.

In his Moscow conference email, Koddermann also expressed pleasure at the fate of a proposal on farmers. Initial language would have recommended that countries restrict support for tobacco growers. The proposal was “significantly watered down,” he wrote. “This is a very positive result.”

Gustavo Bosio, at the time a manager for international trade, chimed in a few days after the conference in an email: “These excellent results are a direct consequence of the remarkable efforts of all PMI regions and markets during the past two years and throughout the intense week in Moscow.”

Philip Morris isn’t alone in seeking to weaken the treaty. Ahead of the 2012 FCTC conference, in Seoul, four cigarette giants – Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands Plc – formed an “informal industry Working Group” to oppose various proposals on tobacco taxation, according to an internal BAT document reviewed by Reuters.

The 45-page paper, whose existence hasn’t been previously reported, noted that the group would coordinate “to the extent that these issues do not raise any anti-competitive concerns.” The paper outlined a global campaign planned by BAT to counter the FCTC, which was “increasingly going beyond” its mandate. And it listed objectives, including a bid to block discussions around the introduction of a minimum 70 percent tax on tobacco.

BAT declined to answer questions about the industry working group. Both Imperial and Japan Tobacco International said they didn’t want to comment on a document from a competitor. Japan Tobacco International said its tax experts met with counterparts from other tobacco companies to discuss treaty guidelines on taxation ahead of the 2012 conference. Philip Morris did not comment on the document.

The Philip Morris emails and documents don’t explicitly detail how the company pulled off the victories in Moscow. But they provide insight into the importance it places on wooing delegates.

The FCTC traditionally makes decisions by consensus, and so influencing a single national delegation can have an outsized impact. The treaty has a key clause meant to keep the industry from unduly influencing delegations. Article 5.3, as it’s known, says nations should protect their public health policies from tobacco interests. Guidelines that accompany Article 5.3 recommend that countries interact with the industry only when “strictly necessary.”

But the article – a single sentence – contains a loophole Philip Morris has exploited. The sentence ends with the words “in accordance with national law,” opening the door to arguments by pro-tobacco forces that any lobbying that’s legal in a certain country is permissible when interacting with that country’s representatives. They also argue that a sentence in a related document, the guidelines for Article 5.3, allows for such interactions to take place as long as they are conducted transparently.

Philip Morris International: Facts & figures

• Has its roots in a small tobacconist shop in London in 1847.
• Now operates in more than 180 markets.
• Famous for its iconic Marlboro Man advertising.
• Has six of the world’s top 15 cigarette brands, including Marlboro, L&M and Chesterfield.
• Spun off from the Richmond, Va.-headquartered Altria Group in March 2008.
• Operational headquarters are in Switzerland.
• Produces over 800 billion cigarettes a year.
• Share price has more than doubled since the 2008 spin-off from Altria.

Sources: Philip Morris International website; Reuters reporting

Lobbying strategy

The Philip Morris International documents uncovered by Reuters include guidelines and country-specific lobbying plans aimed at hobbling the WHO’s global tobacco control treaty and national anti-smoking measures. Strategies include:
• Lobbying lawmakers, bureaucrats and other government officials
• Trying to move tobacco issues away from health departments
• Deploying third parties, including retail groups, to make its case and exert pressure on decision-makers
• Engaging the media on tobacco issues and generating public debate to influence decision-makers

The tabs below show the company’s strategy in action in three countries in recent years, according to internal company documents. The extent to which Philip Morris’ actions affected the outcome in each case is unclear.

In September 2011, Israel’s health ministry proposed new measures to regulate flavoring and advertising of tobacco products. In a draft company strategy document from October 2011, Philip Morris said the proposals included “a few excessive and disproportionate measures” such as restricting the use of fruit or chocolate flavorings in tobacco products, and broadly prohibiting advertising and marketing of tobacco. Elements of the campaign: 1: Leverage established relationships with different government ministries, mobilize retailers to advocate against “excessive” provisions, and lobby the health ministry. 2: Lobby the government through third parties such as an Israel-based supplier of licorice. 3: Use Philip Morris’ database of more than 60,000 adult smokers to reach consumers and create a public debate through the media “to influence MPs,” or members of parliament. OUTCOME: The bans on advertising and ingredients did not go through.

In September 2011, Israel’s health ministry proposed new measures to regulate flavoring and advertising of tobacco products. In a draft company strategy document from October 2011, Philip Morris said the proposals included “a few excessive and disproportionate measures” such as restricting the use of fruit or chocolate flavorings in tobacco products, and broadly prohibiting advertising and marketing of tobacco. Elements of the campaign:
1: Leverage established relationships with different government ministries, mobilize retailers to advocate against “excessive” provisions, and lobby the health ministry.
2: Lobby the government through third parties such as an Israel-based supplier of licorice.
3: Use Philip Morris’ database of more than 60,000 adult smokers to reach consumers and create a public debate through the media “to influence MPs,” or members of parliament.
OUTCOME: The bans on advertising and ingredients did not go through.

A 2010 Philip Morris document shows the company drawing up plans to lobby Sweden in an effort to influence the European Commission’s new tobacco regulations for member states, known as the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Elements of the campaign: 1: Engage the justice ministry to “put pressure” on the health ministry so that the Swedish representative on the European Commission committee opposes plain packaging and “excessive” health warning labels, and supports lifting the ban on snus, a smokeless tobacco product. 2: Build a “broad coalition” of “third-party stakeholders,” such as the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and get them to pressure the government. (The chamber told Reuters that it does not lobby on behalf of individual companies.) 3: Establish a retailer network and contact bloggers and journalists to voice concerns about issues, including plain packaging and point-of-sale display bans. OUTCOME: Plain packaging and point-of-sale display ban were not included in the directive, which came into force in May 2014.

A 2010 Philip Morris document shows the company drawing up plans to lobby Sweden in an effort to influence the European Commission’s new tobacco regulations for member states, known as the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Elements of the campaign:
1: Engage the justice ministry to “put pressure” on the health ministry so that the Swedish representative on the European Commission committee opposes plain packaging and “excessive” health warning labels, and supports lifting the ban on snus, a smokeless tobacco product.
2: Build a “broad coalition” of “third-party stakeholders,” such as the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and get them to pressure the government. (The chamber told Reuters that it does not lobby on behalf of individual companies.)
3: Establish a retailer network and contact bloggers and journalists to voice concerns about issues, including plain packaging and point-of-sale display bans.
OUTCOME: Plain packaging and point-of-sale display ban were not included in the directive, which came into force in May 2014.

In January 2013, Osaka Prefecture in Japan held a public consultation on a proposal to abolish existing smoking rooms, with a “roadmap towards total smoking prohibition in all public places,” according to a February 2014 Japan corporate affairs presentation. The Philip Morris document describes it as an “extreme proposal.” Elements of the campaign: 1: Ensure that “relevant stakeholders” oppose the move. Philip Morris field sales staff engaged retailers and others. 2: Engage local politicians and work with the industry in pushing back against the proposal. OUTCOME: The proposal was withdrawn.

In January 2013, Osaka Prefecture in Japan held a public consultation on a proposal to abolish existing smoking rooms, with a “roadmap towards total smoking prohibition in all public places,” according to a February 2014 Japan corporate affairs presentation. The Philip Morris document describes it as an “extreme proposal.” Elements of the campaign:
1: Ensure that “relevant stakeholders” oppose the move. Philip Morris field sales staff engaged retailers and others.
2: Engage local politicians and work with the industry in pushing back against the proposal.
OUTCOME: The proposal was withdrawn.

One of the company’s targets has been Vietnam.

The day the Moscow meeting ended, Koddermann received an email from his colleague Nguyen Thanh Ky, a leading corporate affairs executive for Vietnam. Ky said he had a “debrief lunch” with the Vietnamese delegation and had a good outcome to report: The delegation was in favor of “moderate and reasonable measures” to be implemented over a “practical timeline,” he wrote. He did not specify which measures they discussed.

The Vietnamese delegation spoke up often during the Moscow meeting. A review of notes compiled by tobacco-control groups accredited as observers showed Vietnam’s interjections frequently mirrored Philip Morris’ positions on tobacco-control regulations. Just like the tobacco giant, the Vietnamese said a higher tax on cigarettes would lead to more illicit sales. Like Philip Morris, they said the FCTC should stay out of trade disputes. And like Philip Morris, they opposed proposals to set uniform parameters for the legal liability of tobacco companies.

The FCTC guidelines on taxation did ultimately include a WHO recommendation for a minimum tax of 70 percent – something Philip Morris opposed. But the proposal to give the treaty more sway over trade disputes was weakened, and measures to strengthen the legal liability of cigarette companies were delayed.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters.

As soon as the conference ended, the documents show, Philip Morris turned to the next one: the 2016 meeting in India.

The 2014 PowerPoint presentation outlined the need to identify ways to gather intelligence during the Delhi conference. In a separate 2015 planning document, the company talks about the arrangement of farmer protests in the run-up to the meeting. Such protests did take place – including one in front of WHO offices in New Delhi. Reuters couldn’t determine whether Philip Morris was behind those demonstrations.

While other major tobacco companies also sent people to Delhi in November, Philip Morris was distinguished by its stealth. Executives from the company did not sign in with their tobacco industry colleagues at the FCTC convention center and stayed at a hotel about an hour’s drive away.

The anonymity and distance helped Philip Morris approach delegates covertly. On the second day of the conference, a white Toyota van pulled away from the front of the Hyatt Regency hotel – where Philip Morris had its operations room – and headed for the FCTC treaty venue. The van was carrying Ky, its corporate affairs executive from Vietnam.

OFFSITE MEETING: During the treaty conference on the outskirts of New Delhi last year, a Philip Morris representative met privately with a member of the Vietnamese delegation, Nguyen Vinh Quoc. In the first picture (left to right), Quoc can be seen emerging from a session at the treaty conference on Nov. 8. In the second picture, a van that left a Delhi hotel carrying a Philip Morris representative heads for the convention center. In the third picture, Quoc can be seen exiting the convention center moments before climbing into the van. REUTERS/Duff Wilson; Tom Lasseter

OFFSITE MEETING: During the treaty conference on the outskirts of New Delhi last year, a Philip Morris representative met privately with a member of the Vietnamese delegation, Nguyen Vinh Quoc. In the first picture (left to right), Quoc can be seen emerging from a session at the treaty conference on Nov. 8. In the second picture, a van that left a Delhi hotel carrying a Philip Morris representative heads for the convention center. In the third picture, Quoc can be seen exiting the convention center moments before climbing into the van. REUTERS/Duff Wilson; Tom Lasseter

Ky’s driver talked his way past police at the barricade outside the conference center, where FCTC-issued credentials were checked, explaining that he was driving “VIPs,” the driver later told Reuters.

A few minutes later, a man in a dark suit walked out of the conference center, passed the van and stopped at a street corner. The van did a U-turn, and a Reuters reporter saw the man in the suit quickly climb in. He was a senior member of Vietnam’s delegation to the FCTC conference: Nguyen Vinh Quoc, a Vietnamese government official.

The driver, Kishore Kumar, said in an interview that he dropped the two men off at a local hotel. Kumar said that on several other occasions that week, he took Ky to pick up people from the Hotel Formule1, a budget lodging where Vietnam’s delegation was staying during the conference.

Ky and Quoc did not respond to requests for comment.

Asked by Reuters about the interaction between Ky and the Vietnam representatives, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave thumped on the table in a bar at the hotel where company representatives were staying. Reuters should focus, he said, on efforts by the industry to develop so-called reduced-risk products – those that deliver nicotine without the burning of tobacco and which the company says reduce harm.

When pressed about the meetings with Vietnam, Cave thumped the table again: “I’m angry that you’re focusing on that, rather than the real issues that matter to real people.”

In a subsequent email, Cave said: “Representatives from Philip Morris International met with delegates from Vietnam” during the Delhi conference “to discuss policy issues and this complied fully with PMI’s internal procedures and the laws and regulations of Vietnam.”

Delegates, Cave said in separate interviews, are reluctant to meet openly with Philip Morris because they are afraid of being “named and shamed” by anti-smoking groups.

Some delegates questioned the extent to which Philip Morris shaped the decisions made at the Moscow conference, saying attendees genuinely disagreed on certain issues. Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, a Thai delegate, oversaw many discussions as the chair of an FCTC committee at the Moscow conference. She said delegates differed over the regulation of e-cigarettes, for instance, and any lobbying the company carried out would not have determined the outcome.

The Philip Morris documents leave questions unanswered. In some cases, the documents show the company hatching plans to change an anti-smoking regulation or to monitor activists, but don’t always make clear to what extent or how the plans were executed, if at all. The 2014 PowerPoint presentation called for “achieving scrutiny” of tobacco control advocates and said a “global project team” had been established for this purpose. It did not list what means would be used.

In some instances, Philip Morris’ lobbying plainly failed. In July 2015, the Ugandan parliament passed sweeping new anti-tobacco laws inspired by the treaty. All that was needed was President Yoweri Museveni’s signature, and the small African nation would become a leader on the continent in implementing a strict interpretation of the FCTC.

Philip Morris sent an executive, a younger white man, to tell the septuagenarian president, who long ago had helped topple dictator Idi Amin, why the tobacco act was a bad idea. Sheila Ndyanabangi, Uganda’s lead health official for tobacco issues who was present at the meeting, described the executive’s approach as lecturing the statesman.

“He said, ‘Ugandan tobacco will be too expensive’ and ‘it will not be competitive,’” Ndyanabangi said. Her account was confirmed by a senior Ugandan government official who was also present.

Museveni stared for a moment at the Philip Morris executive and a representative from a major tobacco buyer who’d come with him. The president then declared: “Slavery ended a long time ago.” There was a long silence in the room, recalled Ndyanabangi. Museveni said Uganda didn’t need tobacco, and the meeting was over. The president signed the bill that September.

Museveni’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Over time, however, the industry’s lobbying has slowed the treaty’s progress. At the biennial conferences, the discussions have changed. In Moscow, for instance, there was a strong focus on trade and taxes. “You could see from the floor that interventions were very, very, very much focusing on the trade aspects, many times even putting trade over health,” the FCTC’s da Costa e Silva said in an interview last year.

The composition of FCTC delegations sent by governments has changed to include more members who aren’t involved in health policy. That’s in line with what Philip Morris and other tobacco companies want: Philip Morris, as well as British American Tobacco, has sought to move the balance of the membership away from public health officials and toward ministries like finance and trade. Such agencies, said the former Philip Morris executive, benefit from tobacco tax revenues and attach less weight to health concerns.

“The health department would just want tobacco to be banned, while for the finance ministry it’s more like how can we leverage or get as much money as we can,” he said.

The object of Philip Morris’ efforts, according to the 2014 PowerPoint on corporate affairs, is to “move tobacco issues away” from health ministries and demonstrate there are broader public interests at play – that “it’s not about tobacco.”

Cave, the Philip Morris corporate affairs executive, confirmed the company tries to persuade governments to change the composition of delegations. Health officials, he said, aren’t equipped to handle the intricacies of issues such as taxation.

“You’re looking at illicit trade, you’re looking at tax regimes, you’re looking at international law,” he said. “Now each of these areas, it’s logical, if you want to really tackle the trade and tobacco smuggling, illicit trade, who would you go to? You wouldn’t go to the health ministry.”

TOBACCO FARMERS: A worker tends to a tobacco crop in the farming community of Beatrice, Zimbabwe. At the treaty meeting in Moscow in 2014, a proposal calling for countries to limit support for tobacco growers was weakened. “This is a very positive result,” wrote Chris Koddermann, a Philip Morris executive, in an email. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

TOBACCO FARMERS: A worker tends to a tobacco crop in the farming community of Beatrice, Zimbabwe. At the treaty meeting in Moscow in 2014, a proposal calling for countries to limit support for tobacco growers was weakened. “This is a very positive result,” wrote Chris Koddermann, a Philip Morris executive, in an email. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

“I’m angry that you’re focusing on that, rather than the real issues that matter to real people.”

Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave, when asked about the company’s interaction with FCTC delegates

Reuters analyzed the rosters of the almost 3,500 accredited delegation members who have attended the seven FCTC conferences since 2006. The analysis found that there were more than six health delegates for every finance-related delegate in 2006. In Delhi last year, that ratio had fallen to just over three health delegates for every finance delegate. The number of delegates from finance, agriculture and trade fields has risen from a few dozen in 2006 to more than 100 in recent years.

Vietnam’s delegation, for example, has changed markedly. At the first FCTC conference in 2006, none of its four delegates were from finance or trade ministries. By 2014, in Moscow, there were 13 delegates, with at least four from finance-related ministries, including the chief delegate. Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions about the delegation.

Da Costa e Silva isn’t opposed to having delegates from trade ministries, but she says their primary focus needs to be on health. And she was concerned by the makeup of the Vietnamese delegation. In a letter to the Vietnamese prime minister in late 2015, she asked that tobacco industry employees be excluded from the delegation. If they weren’t, she wrote, Vietnam might be “unable to play a full part in discussions.”

In 2016, Vietnam brought 11 delegates to the conference, of whom six were from health agencies, including the chief representative.

Some tobacco-control activists who attended the Delhi meeting in November say it was the worst so far in terms of passing new anti-smoking provisions.

Matthew Myers, who heads the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said multiple countries came prepared to consciously block action. He said he heard delegates making arguments “I haven’t heard in 25 years.”

A Nigerian delegate, for instance, asked to remove a reference to “the tobacco epidemic” from a draft proposal on liability for tobacco-related harm, according to notes taken by anti-smoking groups.

Asked for comment, Christiana Ukoli, head of the delegation in Delhi, said the “Nigerian delegation strongly dissociates itself from [that] statement.”

The Delhi conference ended as it began, with treaty Secretariat officials not knowing where Philip Morris had been or what it had done. The company had flown in a team of executives, used a squad of identical vans to ferry officials in New Delhi, and then left town without a trace.

Watering down

Just days after the FCTC conference in Moscow ended in October 2014, Philip Morris executive Gustavo Bosio sent an email to colleagues highlighting what he said was the company’s success in pushing back on three treaty proposals related to trade issues. “These excellent results are a direct consequence of the remarkable efforts of all PMI regions and markets during the past two years and throughout the intense week in Moscow,” wrote Bosio, then manager for international trade. The first two columns in each tab below show the initial proposal and the final outcome, and are from an analysis Bosio attached to his email. The third column contains extracts from his email explaining what happened in each case.

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Source: Internal Philip Morris documents; emphasis added by Philip Morris. Note: “AMRO” refers to the Americas regional office of the World Health Organization.

Additional reporting by Joe Brock in Johannesburg, Ami Miyazaki in Tokyo, Mai Nguyen, My Pham and Minh B. Ho in Hanoi, Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila, Stephen Eisenhammer and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia, Alexis Akwagyiram and Ulf Laessing in Lagos, and Patturaja Murugaboopathy in Bengaluru.

The Philip Morris Files
By Aditya Kalra, Paritosh Bansal, Duff Wilson and Tom Lasseter
Graphics: Jin Wu
Design: Troy Dunkley
Photo editing: Tom White and Altaf Bhat
Edited by Peter Hirschberg