Brazil: Strong Advocacy Efforts Thwart Tobacco Industry Attempts to Weaken Tobacco Control Legislation
In November 2010, Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) issued proposed regulations to ban all tobacco additives, to further restrict tobacco advertising and to ban the display of tobacco products at the point of sale. The regulations were designed to help curb the tobacco epidemic in Brazil and to prevent tobacco companies from making their products more attractive to youth. In response, the tobacco industry launched a major, coordinated attack on the regulations, which included paid media campaigns; public statements claiming that the regulations would negatively affect family famers and small retailers, increase illicit trade, and reduce consumer choice and knowledge; industry funded reports designed to mislead the public and policy makers; and front groups to delay the regulations.
In addition to efforts to weaken tobacco control regulations proposed by ANVISA, the tobacco industry also directly attacked the agency by seeking legislation to remove ANVISA’s authority to finalize the tobacco control regulations. The industry did this by attaching amendments to a budget bill intended only to increase the tax on tobacco products in Brazil. In addition to removing ANVISA’s authority, the amendments would have stopped the pending regulations to ban tobacco additives and weakened other existing tobacco control provisions such as smoke-free areas and warning labels. As the bill was scheduled to move through parliament quickly, the tobacco industry lobbied legislative allies to attach the damaging amendments to the bill in an attempt to catch tobacco control advocates and health officials off guard.
Having been informed of the potential amendments, tobacco control partners lobbied hard to protect ANVISA’s authority and capitalized on opportunities to instead strengthen the bill into a comprehensive tobacco control law covering tax, smoke-free, advertising at point of sale and graphic warning labels.
The Alliance for Tobacco Control, Brazil (ACT Brazil) lobbied legislators to support strong tobacco control elements of the bill. ACT Brazil also partnered with international groups, such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and Johns Hopkins University. Other partners included the National Cancer Institute (INCA) and the National Commission for Implementation of the FCTC (CONICQ).
- ACT Brazil developed and distributed factsheets and briefing materials to Congressional members responding to tobacco industry arguments against the ANVISA proposal. The organization also conducted targeted lobbying of legislators in the days leading up to the vote on the bill.
- In collaboration with international partners, tobacco control partners prepared a response to an industry funded report by Fundação Getulio Vargas, a prestigious think tank respected by Congress. The Vargas report argued that tobacco additives have no negative health effects but neglected to highlight how additives, especially fruity flavors, make tobacco products more palatable and attractive to youth.
- Advocates shared information on tobacco industry activities to undermine the ANVISA proposal with reporters from major newspapers. Media efforts included developing a press release about tobacco industry interference which was given to Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization. As a result, during her visit to Brazil directly before the vote, Dr. Chan gave a widely publicized speech in support of ANVISA and tobacco control efforts in Brazil.
- During the campaign, ANVISA did not give in to tobacco industry pressures to weaken its authority and continued to move forward with developing regulations on additives, holding hearings, processing comments, and gathering evidence supporting the regulations.
- Tobacco control partners sent letters to ANVISA, offering technical advice and support of the regulations, and to President Dilma Rousseff and Minister of Health Alexandre Padilha requesting support for ANVISA.
- Advocacy efforts to protect ANVISA’s authority to regulate tobacco products were just part of a broader tobacco control campaign to increase taxes, strengthen smoke-free laws and advertising bans, and to better regulate tobacco products. Read more details on how tobacco control partners specifically countered tobacco industry attacks during the broader campaign.
Key Messages Used
- Brazil has been a strong regional and global leader in tobacco control, and must support ANVISA’s authority to continue to promote and implement effective tobacco control policies.
- Additives, such as sugars and flavorings, make tobacco products more palatable and attractive to youth. Banning tobacco additives will substantially reduce the addictiveness of tobacco products and prevent youth from starting to smoke.
- By acting to implement strong tobacco control policies, ANVISA will help to prevent the tobacco industry from luring children and teens into using tobacco products.
- When the bill was brought to the floor of the Senate for debate, legislators in support of tobacco control were able to remove the tobacco industry sponsored amendments and to turn the tables on the tobacco industry by instead significantly strengthening the existing tobacco control measures. The law that ultimately passed not only increased tobacco taxes but also included strong smoke-free provisions, strengthened bans on advertising and promotion, including at the point of sale, and increased the size of warning labels on tobacco packaging. The bill passed into law on December 15, 2011.
- ANVISA maintained its authority to regulate cigarettes, and in March of 2012 passed strong regulations banning all additives except sugar.
- Dr. Chan’s speech and other media advocacy efforts generated significant media coverage and public support of ANVISA and tobacco control in Brazil.