Objective: To analyse how local tobacco companies in the Nordic countries, individually and through National Manufacturers' Associations, cooperated with British American Tobacco and Philip Morris in denying the health hazards of smoking and undermining tobacco control.
Methods: Analysis of tobacco control policies in the Nordic countries and tobacco industry documents.
Results: Nordic countries were early adopters of tobacco control policies. The multinational tobacco companies recognised this fact and mobilised to oppose these policies, in part because of fear that they would set unfavourable precedents. Since at least 1972, the Nordic tobacco companies were well informed about and willing to participate in the multinational companies activities to obscure the health dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and to oppose tobacco control policies. Cooperation between multinational companies, Nordic national manufacturer associations and local companies ensured a united front on smoking and health issues in the Nordic area that was consistent with the positions that the multinational companies were taking. This cooperation delayed smoke-free laws and undermined other tobacco control measures.
Conclusions: Local tobacco companies worked with multinational companies to undermine tobacco control in distant and small Nordic markets because of concern that pioneering policies initiated in Nordic countries would spread to bigger market areas. Claims by the local Nordic companies that they were not actively involved with the multinationals are not supported by the facts. These results also demonstrate that the industry appreciates the global importance of both positive and negative public health precedents in tobacco control.