Aims: To examine some recent examples of tobacco control policies used elsewhere that seek to directly erode tobacco industry power, and to consider the relevance of these to New Zealand.
Methods: A literature search was supplemented with six key informant interviews, with World Health Organization (WHO) officials, and Canadian officials and advocates.
Results: The Provincial Government of British Columbia (BC) from 1997 to 2001 had an explicit objective of 'denormalising' the tobacco industry. Legal action was started against the industry to recover healthcare costs. The Canadian Government has been involved in defending its comprehensive tobacco control legislation in court against the industry since 1988. The policies to directly erode industry power, of both Canada overall and at the province level (BC), have been temporally associated with significant declines in smoking prevalence. Since 1998, WHO has conducted a series of inquiries into tobacco industry influence within WHO, and at regional and national levels. Its research and publishing focus on the industry has supported the creation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has sections with the potential to assist national governments in strengthening strategies to erode tobacco industry power. The limitations of such strategies, and the uncertainties with using these approaches in the New Zealand context, suggests the need for careful planning and ongoing evaluation.
Conclusions: Recent experience (in several jurisdictions and organisations) suggests that policies to directly erode tobacco industry power may contribute to the effectiveness of comprehensive tobacco control programmes. Some of these lessons could be incorporated into New Zealand's tobacco-control strategy.