Investigating Institutional Influences on Tobacco Control

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Investigator: Ruth E. Malone, RN, PhD, FAAN
Sponsor: NIH National Cancer Institute

Location(s): Kenya; Rwanda; Uganda; South Africa

Description

Tobacco use is distinguished from other health problems by the presence of an aggressive, multinational tobacco industry whose institutional goals are incompatible with those of public health. "Corporate social responsibility" (CSR) initiatives are an important and under-recognized means by which the tobacco industry seeks to thwart public health and create a tobacco-favorable policy environment in the US and globally. By engaging in "responsible" activities (such as establishing "youth smoking prevention" programs, and contributing to worthy causes), the tobacco industry enhances its image and counters negative publicity, frames the tobacco problem as one of "responsible" consumption and marketing, and provides policymakers with reasons to engage with the industry. The almost unlimited financial resources and ability of multinational tobacco companies to undermine public health efforts through CSR constitutes one of the greatest obstacles to stemming the tobacco epidemic, particularly in low and middle income countries. The specific aims are: Specific aim #1: Investigate tobacco industry CSR initiatives in the US and selected African countries and their implications for the industry's ability to maintain a tobacco-favorable social and regulatory environment by a) retrieving and analyzing tobacco industry documents related to US and African CSR initiatives; and b) retrieving and analyzing CSR-related information on tobacco company websites; Specific aim #2: Examine media coverage of tobacco industry CSR initiatives in the US and Africa to determine the extent, content, and framing of coverage of such initiatives and the implications for tobacco control. This project will directly aid tobacco control efforts by exposing the underlying partnerships, tactics, and motivations guiding tobacco industry CSR activities, helping public health practitioners and policymakers more effectively counter them and insulate tobacco control policymaking from tobacco industry influences. Globally, tobacco is the second major cause of death, killing nearly 6 million people in 2011. Tobacco industry CSR initiatives impede tobacco control policy progress. Greater knowledge of these initiatives will guide the development of more informed and effective tobacco control responses in the US and Africa, helping to reduce tobacco use and its associated burden of disease and death.