Quantifying the influence of the tobacco industry on EU governance: Automated content analysis of the EU tobacco products directive

Hélia Costa, Anna B. Gilmore, Silvy Peeters, Martin McKee, David Stuckler

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Objective: The tobacco industry spends large sums lobbying the European Union (EU) institutions, yet whether such lobbying significantly affects tobacco policy is not well understood. We used novel quantitative text mining techniques to evaluate the impact of industry pressure on the contested EU Tobacco Products Directive revision.

Design: Policy positions of 18 stakeholders including the tobacco industry, health NGOs and tobacco retailers were evaluated using their text submissions to EU consultations and impact assessments. Using Wordscores to calculate word frequencies, we developed a scale ranging from 0–tobacco industry to 1–public health organisations, which was then used to track changes in the policy position of the European Commission’s 2010 consultation document, its 2012 final proposal and the European Parliament and Council’s approved legislation in March 2014.

Results: Several stakeholders’ positions were closer to the tobacco industry than that of health NGOs, including retailers (ω=0.35), trade unions (ω=0.34) and publishers (ω=0.33 and ω=0.40). Over time the European Commission’s position shifted towards the tobacco industry from ω=0.52 (95% CI 0.50 to 0.54) to ω=0.40 (95% CI 0.39 to 0.42). This transition reflected an increasing use of words pertaining to business and the economy in the Commission’s document. Our findings were robust to alternative methods of scoring policy positions in EU documents.

Conclusions: Using quantitative text mining techniques, we observed that tobacco industry lobbying activity at the EU was associated with significant policy shifts in the EU Tobacco Products Directive legislation towards the tobacco industry’s submissions. In the light of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, additional governance strategies are needed to prevent undue influence of the tobacco industry on EU policy making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-478
Number of pages6
JournalTobacco Control
Issue number6
Early online date13 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2014


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