Tobacco Control Interest Groups and Their Influence on Parliamentary Committees in Canada

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine how tobacco control interest groups influence tobacco policy decision-making through submissions and presentations to parliamentary committees.

Methods: A qualitative content analysis was used to examine the presentations and submissions on tobacco-related legislation made to parliamentary committees between 1996 and 2004. The sample was identified from the public list of tobacco-related bills tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate; the Government of Canada website and LEGISinfo were used to determine which committee reviewed the relevant bill. Committee clerks were asked to send submissions and presentations related to specific bills identified through LEGISinfo. Submissions and presentations were scanned and entered into QSR N6 software for coding. The coding instrument was adapted from previous studies employing qualitative content analysis. Montini and Bero's recommendations were used to evaluate the submissions and presentations.

Results: Tobacco control interest groups did present scientific evidence to support tobacco control. However, they underused credible witnesses to present information at meetings. The topics presented by tobacco control interests groups were usually relevant to the bill being discussed.

Discussion: Tobacco control interest groups employed some of the strategies suggested by Montini and Bero in their attempt to influence parliamentary committees through submissions and presentations. They did include scientific evidence in their submissions; however, they could improve their strategies in the area of using credible witnesses, such as scientists and medical experts. Incorporating Montini and Bero's recommendations into lobbying efforts may increase success in influencing committees.

Key words: Public health; lobbying; tobacco; consumer advocacy; federal government; Canada

La traduction du résumé se trouve à la fin de l'article. Can J Public Health 2009;100(5):370-75.

Health advocacy, a strategy of pressuring governments for legislative and regulatory changes that improve health, is an essential part of health promotion and public health policy. Interest groups engage in health advocacy by providing the public and policy-makers with information (e.g., technical or scientific) and lobbying policy-makers both in public forums and private forums to support particular positions.1

Tobacco control is an issue that evokes strong reactions from various stakeholders because it sits at the interface of individual versus collective rights, and health improvements versus tax revenues. Of all stakeholders, the tobacco industry has the most political clout given its wealth, despite its low credibility and a poor reputation. 2,3 Thus, the inclusion of tobacco control interest groups (e.g., the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada or the Canadian Cancer Society) in tobacco control deliberations is necessary to advocate for public health. Otherwise, the tobacco industry and its interests might dominate policy discussions. This is occurring in other countries, for example, in Argentina, where tobacco control legislation is seen as weak as a result of strong industry pressure and an inability to learn from the experience of other countries.4 In Asia, the tobacco industry, in its efforts to counter and delay the process of tobacco control legislation and tobacco control regulations, is attempting to undermine tobacco control advocacy groups, including the World Health Organization and the Asia Pacific Association for the Control of Tobacco.5 Effective health advocacy is required from tobacco control interest groups in order to achieve optimal tobacco control legislation.6

Some researchers have come to the conclusion that public forums are the most effective means of lobbying the government for change.7 An important finding from studies of lobbying in different forums is that legislators have more positive attitudes toward non-profit health organizations and medical professional groups than toward the tobacco industry lobbyists. …