Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made public health a top priority across the globe, it has also put a strain on health departments, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, which are already burdened with a massive health bill from tobacco-related diseases and death.
The tobacco industry, which is responsible for more than 8 million deaths annually worldwide, has never taken responsibility for the diseases and deaths its products have caused and continue to cause its customers, governments and society. Yet, it is exploiting the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic to provide resources to countries badly in need of them, framing itself as being “part of the solution”—a classic tactic of the tobacco industry to get close to governments and enable it to interfere with, derail and undermine health policies aimed at reducing tobacco use.
Governments pinpointed tobacco industry interference as the most serious barrier to tobacco control measures they are implementing under the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), ratified by 180 countries and the European Union. In calling out the tobacco industry as a vector of disease, Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC specifically empowers governments to protect their public health policies from vested commercial interests. Implementation guidelines to Article 5.3, adopted in 2008, provide recommendations governments can take to stop tobacco industry interference and protect their officials when interacting with the industry.
This Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index (Index) is the second report in the series, presenting the status of Article 5.3 implementation and providing a review of governments’ efforts. The Index found that lack of transparency in interactions with the tobacco industry, government endorsement of tobacco-related charity, industry targeting of non-health sectors to derail tobacco control measures and conflict of interest issues persist as main problems across the globe. In this mix, the tobacco industry has lobbied several governments to accept its new tobacco products despite their risks and unproven record as solutions to the tobacco pandemic.
The first Index in 2019 reviewed 33 countries. This second Index covers 57 countries from Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean region, Latin and North America, Europe, South and Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region. It ranks the countries using the same questionnaire and scoring method as the ASEAN Index, developed by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).
This Index is based on publicly available information on tobacco industry interference in countries and their respective governments’ responses to this interference for the period of January 2018 to December 2019 for the new country participants, and January to December 2019 for the 33 countries updating their reports. The countries are ranked according to total scores provided by civil society groups, which prepared their respective country indices. The lower the score, the lower the overall level of interference, which augurs well for the country.
Whether a country was high-, middle- or low-income had little effect on how well or poorly it fared. No country has been spared from tobacco industry interference but what made the difference was government action to address the interferences.
 World Health Organization. Tobacco Fact Sheet. 2019 Jul 26. Available from https://bit.ly/2SHbAjm
 WHO FCTC Convention Secretariat. Information note on classification of novel and emerging tobacco product. 2019 Mar 15. 2019. Available from: https://bit.ly/39ycI2n
 World Health Organization. Guidelines for Implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Available from: https://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf
 Assunta M. Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC). Bangkok, Thailand. 2019 Sep. Available from: https://exposetobacco.org/wp- content/uploads/2019/10/GlobalTIIIndex_Report_2019.pdf
 Assunta M., Dorotheo E. U. SEATCA Tobacco Industry Interference Index: a tool for measuring implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3, Tob Control. 2014. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/ tobaccocontrol-2014-051934