The newly released Tobacco Atlas, Fourth Edition graphically details the scale of the tobacco epidemic, progress that has been made in tobacco control, and the latest products and tactics being deployed by the highly profitable tobacco industry. Lead Atlas author Michael Eriksen penned the chapter entitled "Undue Influence." The theme of tomorrow's World No Tobacco Day bears the same name. Dr. Eriksen's research drives home the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry's brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine global tobacco control efforts.
By Michael Eriksen, ScD
Tobacco companies spend untold millions of dollars annually to influence public policy and legislation. Reporting of tobacco industry political contributions is not required in most countries, so the complete picture of the tobacco industry’sinvestment is not fully understood. In 2010, nineteen companies with tobacco interests spent $16.6 million and employed 168 lobbyists in an effort to directly influence political decisions in the US.
In addition to political influence, tobacco companies make charitable contributions under the guise of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Often these donations and efforts do more to benefit the image of tobacco companies than to benefit humanitarian efforts. In 2010 Philip Morris International contributed a fraction of a percent of the company’s net profits in global charitable donations ($25 million in donations and $7.5 billion in profits). Parties or nations to the WHO FCTC are warned to “be alert to any efforts by the tobacco industry to under-mine or subvert tobacco control efforts” and are obligated to protect their public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
The influence of the tobacco industry is monumental, and tobacco companies’ contributions to socially responsible causes are of great concern. Not only are CSR contributions a form of tobacco advertising and promotion, but such contributions allow tobacco companies to legitimize themselves with policymakers and the public and counter the negative attention surrounding their deadly products.The tobacco industry exerts undue influence through partnerships with other organizations, such as convenience stores, advertising, and farmers’ associations, and the hospitality industry. Tobacco companies fund front groups and think tanks to promote tobacco or oppose tobacco legislation. While these organizations appear to be independent, governments must be wary of their involvement with Big Tobacco.
The China National Tobacco Corporation has sponsored at least 69 elementary schools,and thousands of students daily are exposed to pro-tobacco propaganda, names and messages. Schools signs read, "Genius comes from hard work. Tobacco keeps you sucessful."
About the Author
Michael Eriksen is a professor in and the founding dean of the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University. He is also director of Georgia State University’s Partnership for Urban Health Research and Center of Excellence in Health Disparities Research. Prior to his current positions, Eriksen served as a senior advisor to the World Health Organization in Geneva and was the longest-serving director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health (1992–2000). Previously, Eriksen was director of behavioral research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He has recently served as an advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Legacy Foundation, and the CDC Foundation.Eriksen has published extensively on tobacco prevention and control and has served as an expert witness of behalf of the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission in litigation against the tobacco industry. He is editor-in-chief of Health Education Research and has been designated as a Distinguished Cancer Scholar by the Georgia Cancer Coalition. He is a recipient of the WHO Commemorative Medal on Tobacco or Health and a Presidential Citation for Meritorious Service, awarded by President Bill Clinton. Eriksen is a past president and Distinguished Fellow of the Society for Public Health Education, and has been a member of the American Public Health Association for over 35 years.
About the Fourth Edition
The Fourth Edition of The Tobacco Atlas launched on March 21, 2012, at the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Singapore, a decade after the publication of the first edition. The Atlas presents the most up-to-date information on tobacco and tobacco control available in a highly graphic, easily understandable format.