Introduction by presenter: Lobbyists – most people imagine them to be sinister folk running around in dark suits, carrying suitcases. But it’s not that simple. Basically lobbyists are people that fight for certain interests. One example: The EU parliament negotiated over a stricter tobacco directive. In the process, many, many lobbyists had been active in order to present their arguments. There have been representatives by the tobacco industry but also representatives of anti-tobacco campaigners. Does that mean “bad lobbyists” versus “good lobbyists”? Katharina von Tschurtschenthaler and Ekkehard Sieker say: There’s more than just the mere “black and white”…
Broadcast: We’re in the EU parliament. Those are the remainders of little goodies by the tobacco industry (camera shows cigarette samples). Plus countless cover letters by tobacco companies urging MEPs not to support this “wrong” Tobacco Directive. Working against these lobbyists there are anti-tobacco campaigning groups with more than 100 people of staff and million-Euro budgets.
Quote Florence Berteletti, director SmokeFree Partnership: “We at SmokeFree Partnership are only two people of staff. Those responsible for Tobacco Control in Brussels you can count on one hand”.
For her point of view, the bible story of David and Goliath needs to be referred to. On the one hand you have the giant Goliath, representing the evil: The big tobacco industry. One the other hand you have little David, representing the good. However: Is David really that weak? Let’s have a closer look at her organization the SmokeFree Partnership. These tobacco opponents receive funding by the pharma industry, it says in this handbook on patient groups published by the EU. Obviously the anti tobacco groups are not that weak at all.
(Camera shows Smoke-Free sign and consecutively logos of pharma companies)
Our little David has got some true giants as friends! Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, GSK, Pfizer – Well, big pharma!
However: What is their interest? Saving mankind from death of smoking, out of altruism? Or are we talking about clear economic interests? Maybe it’s all about this: This is an e-cigarette! (camera shows e-cig) Already a substitute to regular cigarettes for many people. A giant future market. The pharma industry wants e-cigarettes regulated just as strictly as many other nicotine surrogates such as nicotine chewing gums or patches.
The boss of the SmokeFree Partnership also wants this, arguing that this would be the only way to ensure the e-cigarettes helps smokers quit. Quote Florence Berteletti : “If they were on the market unregulated, who’s supposed to do the research on this?” Sounds reasonable at first listen.
Among MEPs, the SmokeFree Partnership has got a good reputation as independent anti-tobacco group. Is that justified?
Quote MEP Carl Schlyter (Green Party, Sweden): “According to my internet research I was not able to detect any connection to the pharma industry.”
Quote MEP Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (Social Democrats, Germany): “I cannot tell you how that organization is being funded. Actually we don’t really know that with several NGOs. However I support this organisation’s goals and I honestly I cannot imagine which industry association should have an interest in supporting them except for altruistic interests.”
A mere altruistic interest? The SmokeFree Partnership was been funded with at least €18,000 from pharma companies in 2012. But indirectly it’s quite a lot more than that. For example let’s go back to 2009, to the campaign “Tobacco Free Europe”, aiming directly at MEPs, showing the death toll of smokers. The campaign was co-organized by SmokeFreePartnership. Pfizer & Co. had funded this with €90,000 (camera shows leaflet indicating the fundings in a cake diagram).
However, our little David has got some further powerful friends, like the ERS. It’s the founding partner of SmokeFree Partnership. ERS organizes conventions on medical and pharma topics like the one in Barcelona in 2013, predominantly sponsored by the pharma industry. Doesn’t the pharma industry influence SmokeFree Partnership via the ERS?
Quote Florence Berteletti: “I am the director of the SmokeFree Partnership. If you have a question concerning the pharma industry and ERS, why don’t you approach ERS?”
But we’re already there. ERS and SmokeFree Partnership use the same mailbox and the same e-mail-address. And Ms Berteletti had been ERS staff member until recently. Is that independence?
Quote Florence Berteletti: “We are not funded financially by the pharma industry. We do not represent any of their interests.” Up until the end of our conversation, the SmokeFree Partnership insists on its independence. On the day prior to the parliamentary vote the SmokeFree Partnership sends this appeal to the MEPs (camera shows leaflet with shock pictures including small children), in cooperation with a new partner: the EFA. This organization received as much as €490,000 from the pharma industy, according to official EU documents.
And what did our weak David achieve now? Well, first of all some sort of stalemate. Since – as opposed to other media coverage – the EU parliament yesterday did NOT pass a final/ definite ruling on tobacco control and it is not sure yet who’ll be able to make the big business with e-cigarettes. David and Goliath enter the next round.
Outro by presenter: There may be dispute of details of a regulation. However it should by any means always be clear and transparent who’s arguing in whose name and for whose interests.
Friday, 11 October 2013
Big Pharma versus e-cigarettes
Big Pharma's massive lobbying effort in Brussels has received very little attention so it's a pleasant surprise to see that German television has lifted the lid an inch or two on the funding of the many alleged 'public health' groups that have been involved with the Tobacco Products Directive. The video is here (I can't embed it) and it is, of course, in German. A rough translation is below...
Posted by Christopher Snowdon at 3:03 pm