Background: The Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) provides a basis for nation states to limit the political effects of tobacco industry philanthropy, yet progress in this area is limited. This paper aims to integrate the findings of previous studies on tobacco industry philanthropy with a new analysis of British American Tobacco's (BAT) record of charitable giving to develop a general model of corporate political philanthropy that can be used to facilitate implementation of the FCTC.
Method: Analysis of previously confidential industry documents, BAT social and stakeholder dialogue reports, and existing tobacco industry document studies on philanthropy.
Results: The analysis identified six broad ways in which tobacco companies have used philanthropy politically: developing constituencies to build support for policy positions and generate third party advocacy; weakening opposing political constituencies; facilitating access and building relationships with policymakers; creating direct leverage with policymakers by providing financial subsidies to specific projects; enhancing the donor's status as a source of credible information; and shaping the tobacco control agenda by shifting thinking on the importance of regulating the market environment for tobacco and the relative risks of smoking for population health. Contemporary BAT social and stakeholder reports contain numerous examples of charitable donations that are likely to be designed to shape the tobacco control agenda, secure access and build constituencies.
Conclusions and recommendations: Tobacco companies' political use of charitable donations underlines the need for tobacco industry philanthropy to be restricted via full implementation of Articles 5.3 and 13 of the FCTC. The model of tobacco industry philanthropy developed in this study can be used by public health advocates to press for implementation of the FCTC and provides a basis for analysing the political effects of charitable giving in other industry sectors which have an impact on public health such as alcohol and food.