Needs of LMIC-based tobacco control advocates to counter tobacco industry policy interference: insights from semi-structured interviews

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Introduction Advocacy is vital for advancing tobacco control and there has been considerable investment in this area. While much is known about tobacco industry interference (TII), there is little research on advocates’ efforts in countering TII and what they need to succeed. We sought to examine this and focused on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where adoption and implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) tend to remain slower and weaker.

Method We interviewed 22 advocates from eight LMICs with recent progress in a tobacco control policy. We explored participants’ experiences in countering TII, including the activities they undertake, challenges they encounter and how their efforts could be enhanced. We used Qualitative Description to analyse transcripts and validated findings through participant feedback.

Results We identified four main areas of countering activities: (1) generating and compiling data and evidence, (2) accessing policymakers and restricting industry access, (3) working with media and (4) engaging in a national coalition. Each area was linked to challenges, including (1) lack of data, (2) no/weak implementation of FCTC Article 5.3, (3) industry ties with media professionals and (4) advocates’ limited capacity. To address these challenges, participants suggested initiatives, including access to country-specific data, building advocates’ skills in compiling and using such data in research and monitoring, and in coalition development; others aiming at training journalists to question and investigate TII; and finally, diverse interventions intended to advance a whole-of-government approach to tobacco control. Structural changes to tobacco control funding and coordination were suggested to facilitate the proposed measures.

Conclusion This research highlights that following years of investment in tobacco control in LMICs, there is growing confidence in addressing TII. We identify straightforward initiatives that could strengthen such efforts. This research also underscores that more structural changes to enhance tobacco control capacity building should be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere044710
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Early online date26 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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