• February 28, 2024

U.K. Urged to Track Tobacco Lobbying

 U.K. Urged to Track Tobacco Lobbying
Photo: GR/peopleimages.com

The United Kingdom should introduce a legally binding and publicly accessible register that covers all lobbying and policy influence activity to reduce the tobacco industry’s influence on policymaking, according to the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) at the University of Bath.

The call comes after the group’s most recent Tobacco Industry Interference Index (UKTI) revealed that the U.K has become more susceptible to industry influence.

TCRG researchers measured the intensity, frequency, and severity of incidents of tobacco industry interference against 20 indicators between April 2021 and March 2023. In the most recent survey, which covered the period, the U.K. scored 48 out of a possible 100 in the 2023 ranking, compared to a score of 32 in 2021, where a higher score means greater tobacco industry interference.

According to the authors, this year’s index highlights several areas of concern: 

  • A lack of transparency across government about its interactions with the tobacco industry and no requirement for the tobacco industry and its associates to register with the government. 
  • A wide range of “unnecessary” interactions between government officials, including senior ministers, and tobacco companies. 
  • No government ban on tobacco industry activities described as “socially responsible”
  • Tobacco companies attempt to influence policy by submitting responses to public consultations and officially commissioned policy reviews, including on issues of tobacco control.  

“Our two-year research highlights a sharp increase in activity by tobacco companies to interfere with health policymaking,” said Raouf Alebshehy, lead author of the UKTI report, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, this has been coupled with a lack of awareness and absence of implementation of measures protecting public health from the industry interference. Except for the U.K.’s health agencies and departments, we have evidence of incidents of tobacco industry interference at the most senior political levels.”  

“The Tobacco Interference Index rightly highlights that the U.K. needs to improve cross government understanding about the processes which must be used to protect public policy from tobacco industry interference,” said Deborah Arnott, CEO of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK.

“Our ministry of health, which is the custodian for the U.K. of the WHO Convention on Tobacco Control, has already moved to address this through publication in June of guidance to all U.K. government officials on just this issue. We feel confident that the next U.K. Tobacco Industry Interference Index will show the U.K. moving back up the rankings.”