The Big Tobacco Allies – How tobacco companies use intermediaries to foster their corporate social responsibility initiatives and promote their image in Uganda.
Launched virtually on Thursday 25 February 2021, the Big Tobacco Allies report documents a series of instances where tobacco multinationals use intermediaries to foster their efforts to undermine implementation of the WHO FCTC. It maps tobacco industry allies and front groups, exposing how they are exploited by tobacco companies to clean their image and grow their business.
The report, relying on surveys carried out by Uganda Health Communication Alliance (UHCA) with support from the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), was attended by tobacco control advocates, journalists and other tobacco control stakeholders from Africa.
According to the report, while they portray themselves as independent, front groups and allies generally have some form of relation with tobacco companies whom they provide a false impression of widespread support. They help to present tobacco industry arguments through what can be considered as credible and independent entities, and the industry is known to use this tactic to create unnecessary interaction with authorities. Tobacco companies then profit from this to generate conflict of interest that ultimately undermines tobacco control policies.
The report reveals amongst other issues, that tobacco multinationals have partnerships that help grow the tobacco business and image in Uganda, several entities lobby on behalf of the tobacco industry, promoting its claims and activities, and entities run campaigns in favour of the tobacco industry.
To prevent the tobacco industry from exploiting intermediaries to interfere in tobacco control, the report recommends awareness raising on, and mobilization for action against the dangers posed by tobacco industry allies especially in the civil society sector. The study recommends also having a very clear disclosure and transparency policy that covers broadly all government officials, policy-makers and non-governmental organizations in their interfaces with the tobacco industry.
The Uganda Big Tobacco Allies report proposes that stakeholders increase advocacy and public awareness on tobacco industry interference in tobacco control policies, and the capacity of CSOs be enhanced to enable them champion and expose tobacco industry interference at all levels. The report finally calls for a rejection of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of tobacco companies, and advices authorities to be re-educated about the conflict of interest with the tobacco industry and its front groups engender.
The Uganda report comes after similar reports were launched in Nigeria and Zambia.