The German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) recently published its 2023 Index of Tobacco Industry Interference in Germany. Unfairtobacco has co-signed it. After two years, the 2023 Index once again shows that the tobacco industry can exert a great deal of influence on politics and that Germany’s measures to counter this influence are still inadequate. The ratings have even worsened in recent years: from 63 negative points in 2020 to 68 points in 2021 and 70 points this year. Internationally, Germany ranks in the bottom third of the countries analysed, in 67th place out of 90.

Key areas such as the sponsorship of political parties and public institutions are insufficiently regulated. There is no code of conduct for civil servants and contacts with the tobacco industry remain largely opaque. The extent of interactions between tobacco industry individuals and policy makers and government officials at all levels is alarming. The tobacco industry provides a budget of more than six million euros per year and at least 90 lobbyists to interfere in policy making.

All of this is diametrically opposed to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in which Germany committed itself back in 2004 to protect health policy decisions from the influence of the tobacco industry (Article 5.3).

On the aspect of interactions, the guidelines on Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC state: “Interactions between the tobacco industry and policy makers must be limited to what is strictly necessary for effective regulation of the tobacco industry.”

Tobacco industry and single-use plastics

In the category of unnecessary interactions, the current Tobacco Lobby Index includes contacts in connection with the EU’s Single-Use Plastics Directive and the extended producer responsibility. Among other things, this makes manufacturers responsible for taking over the costs of cleaning measures. To implement the directive , the Single-Use Plastics Fund is being set up in Germany. The Single-Use Plastics Directive also includes regulations for cigarette filters, as these are made of plastic (cellulose acetate).

One of the two main sponsors of the German Packaging Law Days 2022 and 2023, which offered reduced prices for public sector employees and participants could receive training points, was Philip Morris. Among the speakers were employees from Philip Morris and BVTE, the Federal Association of the Tobacco Industry and Novel Products, who spoke about single-use plastics and the extended producer responsibility.

The newly established Single-Use Plastics Fund in Germany is administered by the Federal Environment Agency, which is “responsible for categorising single-use plastic products, determining the type of product and establishing whether someone is a manufacturer within the meaning of the Single-Use Plastics Fund Act”. It is advised by the Single-Use Plastics Commission, which is made up of representatives from manufacturers, the waste management industry and environmental and consumer organisations. The manufacturers make up half of the members of the commission, while only one environmental and one consumer organisation are represented. The tobacco industry has become a member of the commission with a representative from the BVTE.

Tobacco industry under close scrutiny: green change or trapping farmers?

We too are taking a closer look at the strategies of the tobacco industry. At the German Conference on Tobacco Control from 6 to 7 December, we have been present with the plenary session “Tobacco industry under close scrutiny: green change or swizzle?”.

We have presented various environment and sustainability strategies used by companies and associations of the tobacco industry to give themselves a green image. We countered this image of supposed sustainability with an example of alternative income opportunities for tobacco farmers.

Companies and associations in the tobacco industry use numerous opportunities to present themselves as responsible corporate citizens, sustainable and environmentally friendly, while at the same time shifting responsibility for environmental damage onto consumers. They also like to boast of being advocates and best friends of tobacco farmers, e.g. when it comes to child labour or local forests.

Click here for the programme of the German Tobacco Control Conference 2023

"The government shows no willingness to build an effective firewall against the influence of the tobacco industry and thus protect the population from the harmful practices of the tobacco industry." Laura Graen, author of the Tobacco Lobby Index Germany and resarch associate at the DKFZ

Unfairtobacco, together with many other civil society and health organisations, calls for a profound national tobacco control stratey, that takes different policy areas into account. A concept developed by experts from health science and civil society, the strategy for a tobacco-free Germany 2040, has been on the table for two years.