Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Forecasts for transparency in tobacco lobbying

France – Sunshine!
An earlier blog reported on innovative tobacco control measures recently implemented in France. But there is more. The same order of May 19, 2016 (Number 2016-623) that created plain packaging also had other important tobacco control provisions. One of these was a requirement for transparency in lobbying by or on behalf of tobacco companies. Article L. 3512-7 requires an annual report on tobacco company lobbying to be submitted to the Minister. Information to be reported by tobacco manufacturers, importers, distributors, as well as businesses, professional organizations and other associations that carry out representations on behalf of the tobacco industry, must include:

·         The total amount paid in salaries to lobbyists and the number of people so employed, measured in full-time equivalents.
·         Amounts paid to purchase lobbying services by consultants on behalf of tobacco companies or their associations, together with the names of the companies so paid.
·         All gifts worth 10 Euros or more given directly or indirectly to elected officials, civil servants or government contractors working on tobacco issues, together with the names and addresses of the beneficiaries of such gifts.

One hopes that this latter provision will ensure that no reportable “gifts” (a.k.a. bribes) will be given by tobacco company lobbyists in the future.

Article L. 3515-5 sets a fine of 45,000 euros for failing to submit a full report.

Decree 2017-279 of March 2, 2017 provides detailed information on the form and manner for submitting such reports. When the system is up and running, reports for the previous year must be submitted by April 1, and will be placed on a public website by the following July 1. For the first year, 2016, the deadline for submission will be May 1, 2017 and the date for mounting on a website will be September 1, 2017.

It will take a while for sunshine to break through the clouds, but by September 1, 2017, the sun will be shining on the once-dark business of tobacco lobbying in France.

Canada – Mostly cloudy

In Canada, reporting by all lobbyists, not just tobacco lobbyists is required more frequently. Monthly reports are required and they are added to an online database that is publicly available. But these reports contain precious little information. Here is an example:

In-house Corporation
Designated Public Office Holders who participated in the communication:
        • Chantal Petitclerc, Senator | Senate of Canada
Subject Matter of the communication: Health
Communication date: 2016-12-08
Posted date: 2016-12-08
Communication number: 5116-389668    View associated registration

All we learn is that one or more unnamed persons from Imperial Tobacco met with Chantal Petitclerc, a Senator, on December 8, 2016 and that they had a chat about “health.” One could presume, since Senator Petitclerc is the sponsor of a tobacco control bill wending its way through the Senate, that they spoke about tobacco. But they were only required to report that they spoke about “health.” The lobby register also contains the names of people who may potentially be lobbying, but no details on the lobbying they might have actually carried out. Unlike France, no information is required on the amount of spending on lobbying.

In Canada, we get frequent reports on lobbying, but the reports are almost always the same – mostly cloudy.