The Government are under obligation to protect tobacco control from the vested interests of the tobacco industry, under The World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Our policy on this is set out in Chapter 10 of 'Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England'. This does not extend beyond the tobacco industry and the Department, as with all other policy areas, engages with a wide range of stakeholders including the pharmaceutical industry, organisations in receipt of funding from the pharmaceutical industry and organisations in receipt of funding from the public purse.We can therefore take it for granted that acceptable stakeholders in tobacco policy might include pharmaceutical interests and publicly funded bodies.
The government may not count the tobacco industry as a legitimate stakeholder in tobacco policy because of the demands of the Framework Convention, specifically Article 5.3. Pharmaceutical companies, on the evidence, are meant to 'represent health interests', and are thereby 'good guys' who would never abuse their enormous financial clout by applying improper pressure?
They are effectively the tobacco companies' chief competitors in the market for recreational nicotine. Thanks to the stipulations of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, they don't even need to apply any improper pressure, as the rules exclude the tobacco companies from proper participation. The bad guys have been chucked out of the club so only the good guys are left?
These stipulations can also encourage the public to believe that all the 'bad guys' are being sidelined, when they are actually very much in the game. Governments and their agencies agencies can attempt to chase a big player out of the market only with the help of an even more powerful player – and the big and powerful inevitably involve interests that can clash with those of the general public.
Demands such as those made by the Framework Convention damage the political negotiation process in EU member countries with their one-size-fits-all approach. They make certain elements of policy non-negotiable, even though the essence of politics is negotiation. The Secretary of State actually claims to have no power to include tobacco interests in tobacco policy discussions. In the Mother of all democracies this is a sad state of affairs, and one that badly needs correcting.