Tobacco industry tried to derail European anti-smoking legislation

In collaboration with the Press Association

The tobacco industry tried, and failed, to subvert revised European regulations on tobacco products, a new analysis reports.  

“Tobacco companies have the financial resources to make their presence felt, and this remains one of their greatest weapons" - Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK

An investigation of industry documents found that the industry had relied on “massive” lobbying by third-parties to try to unsettle regulations’ progress through the EU parliament. 

One tobacco manufacturer was found to have employed more than 160 lobbyists.

Dubbed “the most lobbied dossier in the history of EU institutions”, the 2014 European Union Tobacco Products Directive set out proposals to prevent premature deaths and cut the number of smokers across the continent by 2.4 million. It is due to become law next year.

The new analysis, published in the journal Tobacco Control, also suggests that the tobacco industry’s efforts were helped by reforms – known as ‘Smart Regulation’ – that seemed to have made it easier for corporate interests to influence public health laws.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s EU director of cancer prevention, said the investigation showed how more needs to be done to stop the tobacco industry influence.

“This important study shows how the tobacco industry threw the kitchen sink at a campaign to sabotage the Tobacco Products Directive. But it failed. Despite the industry’s efforts the new measures will raise public health standards across the EU from 2016, and ultimately save lives,” she said. 

The Directive updates legislation first passed in 2001. It includes an increase in the size of graphic health warnings, a ban on flavoured cigarettes, restrictions on the size and shape of packets and regulation of e-cigarettes.

The research, carried out by UK researchers based in London, Oxford and Bath, analysed a wide range of evidence, including 581 documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests; 28 leaked Philip Morris International papers and 17 transnational tobacco company documents. 

Philip Morris International, who sells tobacco products in over 200 countries around the world, was found to have employed over 160 lobbyists. And the company described the involvement of third parties as “key to success”.

Numerous third parties lobbying for the tobacco industry position were identified, of which 51 had clear financial links with the tobacco industry. There was also repeated undisclosed contact between EU officials and industry representatives. 

“Tobacco companies have the financial resources to make their presence felt, and this remains one of their greatest weapons - yet the nature of their financial links remains hidden in the shadows. In the week in which we mark 10-years of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, this study highlights how more must be done to protect public health policy from the tobacco industry,” Cox added.


  • Peeters, S, et al. (2015). The revision of the 2014 European tobacco products directive: an analysis of the tobacco industry's attempts to ‘break the health silo’ Tobacco Control : 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051919