Does BAT influence EU policies in favor of business interests...

January 19, 2010 - Scientists said British American Tobacco (BAT) has teamed up with companies in other industries such as oil to influence European Union (EU) policies in favor of business interests at the expense of public health.

PAPER: “Working the System”—British American Tobacco's Influence on the European Union Treaty and Its Implications for Policy: An Analysis of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents, Katherine E. Smith1, Gary Fooks, Jeff Collin, Heide Weishaar, Sema Mandal1, Anna B. Gilmore1, Plos (Public Library of Science) Medicine, 1/2010, FULL TEXT..

Katherine Smith and colleagues analyzed more than 700 internal BAT documents with information on BAT's attempts to influence European regulatory reform, and interviewed relevant European policymakers and lobbyists. They found BAT created a policy network of several large companies involved in marketing products that can damage public health or the environment, to promote a lobbying campaign to alter EU policymaking rules.

The campaign succeeded in engineering specific changes to EU policy, including a call for the burden of regulation on businesses to be eased, and ultimately gave rise to the current system of business-oriented impact assessment, Smith wrote.
She said this could stall or even prevent future EU public health regulations.

EU officials were often unaware of the magnitude of BAT's influence, the researchers wrote, possibly because the corporate campaign used third parties such as think tanks and consultants.

A spokeswoman for BAT rejected the study's findings and accused its authors of "suggesting that only people who agree with their own point of view should be allowed to voice them".

The European Commission declined to comment.

Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization, killing more than 5 million people a year. A report by the World Lung Foundation last August said smoking could kill 1 billion people this century if trends hold.

Reference: Scientists say tobacco firm skews EU policymaking by Kate Kelland (Editing by David Holmes and Erica Billingham), Reuters, 1/11/2010.