Responding to the Global Tobacco Industry: Canada and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Article excerpt

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death throughout the world, resulting in 4.9 million tobacco-related deaths per year) Major cigarette brands from multinational tobacco companies account for over 75 per cent of all worldwide cigarette sales. (2) Yet until recently, tobacco control efforts were focused at the regional or national level, rather than at the global level.

There is substantial evidence that the global perspective of tobacco companies contributes to their success. In a continuing quest to build and defend world markets for tobacco products, multinational tobacco companies are able to share information effectively across national borders within their own organizations. Tobacco companies also share some of their less sensitive information with competitors through national and international trade organizations, in order to facilitate joint efforts at lobbying governments in many countries.

The international nature of the tobacco industry's efforts has made it difficult until recently for public health agencies in individual countries to fight effectively against the global might of the tobacco industry. To compete successfully against the international efforts of the tobacco industry, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was developed by the World Health Organization in conjunction with public health agencies and tobacco control organizations from countries around the world. (3) As the first cross-national public health treaty, the FCTC is intended to reduce tobacco use worldwide, and it exemplifies the new trend toward global thinking among public administrators. In order to institute effective tobacco control policy to help reduce the toll of tobacco-related death and disease, the FCTC helps policy-makers to become equally astute at sharing information across national boundaries and more adept at considering the transnational implications of policy and legislation. (4)

This article will first illustrate why transnational worldwide action on tobacco control was necessary, by presenting excerpts from tobacco industry documents which demonstrate the global power of the tobacco industry. While some of these excerpts were initially located in secondary sources, the original documents have been checked through online PDF sources to ensure the accuracy of the quotations or excerpts. A review of these excerpts clearly illustrates the need for tobacco control efforts to operate on a cross-national or global basis. Canada's role in developing the FCTC will be reviewed, and an overview of Canada's efforts to come into compliance with the FCTC will be outlined. The implications for public administrators involved in other health-related areas will be discussed.


During the 1990s over 35 million pages of subpoenaed tobacco industry corporate documents were publicly released as a result of high profile us court cases, and many of these are available online at (5) These include documents from the Tobacco Institute (a lobbying organization for the us tobacco industry) and from all of the major us tobacco companies, as well as documents from corporate headquarters outside of the United States (i.e., British American Tobacco in the UK). The documents discuss a variety of corporate issues, including marketing, advertising, finances, operations, product development and research into product and health issues related to tobacco. (6) Documents also include information about international operations of the multinational tobacco companies, including details of the mergers and acquisitions that have made large tobacco companies become even larger, as well as information about industry trade organizations and international lobbying efforts. Similar documents from Canadian tobacco companies and the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council have also been made public as a result of court challenges to Canada's 1988 Tobacco Products Control Act and 1997 Tobacco Act, (7) and some of these are also available online at http://tobaccodocuments. …