New report on tobacco industry interference: Tobacco companies are undermining necessary public health and tobacco control measures in Germany.

Today, the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control is publishing the report “Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020” for the first time including a chapter on Germany. Unfairtobacco, Women Against Tobacco (FACT e.V.), German NCD Alliance (DANK) and eight other organisaions jointly publish the „Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, Germany“. The report exposes the tobacco industry‘s remaining strong influence on public health policy in Germany. The German government is thus failing to meet its obligations under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) ratified in 2004. In particular, FCTC Article 5.3 , which provides for the protection of public health policy measures against the influence of the tobacco industry, is thus not or insufficiently fulfilled.

In the Global Index, Germany ranks 23rd out of 57 countries examined and shares this rank with Kazakhstan and Malaysia. This leads to the conclusion that urgently needed measures to curb tobacco consumption are lacking in Germany due to industry interference. The tobacco industry is inappropriately close to political decision-makers and using it to hinder public health regulations as well as undermining necessary tobacco control measures in Germany.

The report was written by Laura Graen, a German tobacco control expert. It is based on a questionnaire of the Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and draws exclusively on public sources. In Germany, however, the many connections between industry and politics are not sufficiently transparent, partly due to the lack of a public lobby register. For this reason, the rating of 63 overall points can be understood as a minimum value, which could also be higher (maximum possible influence = 100 points).

The index contains numerous examples of the tobacco industry’s (attempted) influence on policies.The outdoor advertising ban for tobacco products had been postponed for several years, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are favoured over cigarettes in taxation and tobacco companies receive certain tobacco tax exemptions of 5-6 million euro per year.

Additionally, tobacco companies present themselves as socially responsible companies sponsoring political activities, social initiatives and events. This is intended to secure and improve their social reputation and their ability to influence politics. Tobacco companies donate to political parties or state governments, sponsor party congresses and political events and involve themselves extensively in education, science and culture. Subsequently, key tobacco control measures are prevented such as „regular significant tobacco taxes increases, comprehensive smokefree legislation, good cessation support, a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and effective measures against the interference of tobacco industry in policymaking.“

At large, the author concludes that the German government is implementing new tobacco control measures only if they are required by an EU regulation. Laura Graen therefore recommends a number of measures to reduce the influence of the tobacco industry and stop tobacco companies from undermining tobacco control measures in Germany. In addition to the adoption of a comprehensive national tobacco control strategy based on the WHO FCTC with a timeline for action, she calls for further regulation and increased transparency on sponsorship and donations by the industry and for the introduction of a lobby register.

Considering the death of 125,000 people in Germany caused by tobacco use, Unfairtobacco demands the Federal Government to fulfil its responsibilty in public health policies especially now as we are experiencing the Corona pandemic. Tobacco use causes direct and indirect costs of 97 billion euros every year and imposes high burdens on the health system. Companies must be prevented from undermining necessary public health anbd tobacco control measures in Germany.

"More than 15 years after the country’s ratification of the WHO FCTC, the tobacco industry in Germany is still strong and able to exert influence on public health policy." Laura Graen, tobacco control expert