Certainly, their data provided robust evidence that high-ranking staffers spin in and out of the private (industry or lobbying firms) and public sectors. However, calling for “strengthening integrity and transparency legislation” seems naïve at best.
Firstly, the issue is systemic, and tobacco is only one industry among many with alcohol, food, gambling, fuel, and coal. We live in a global capitalist system whose aim is the wealth of the economy, not the health of the people.
Secondly, no need for transparency, the facts are apparent, and integrity is an empty concept if not bound to a goal. For example, Australia’s preferential trade agreements have been associated with a statistically significant increase in the share of Australian alcoholic beverage imports in its partner countries total imports of alcoholic beverages.2,3 Presently, the Australian Government is fighting a proposed UK alcohol tax 4,5, as France did a decade ago against the Act passed by the Scottish Parliament to impose a minimum price per unit of alcohol, claiming it “would be disastrous on the balance of European trade”.6
Last, lobbying is a legal activity and “influence” is not the appropriate term: A partnership exists!. For example, in 2017, when elected, the French President recruited the managing director of Vin et Société, the wine organisation for production and trading, as his agricultural adviser. No reason to blame him, electors deliberately chose the economy as the priority, not public health. Indeed, as is the case in every presidential election in France, the “Wise persons” (a small group led by the late Claude Got with Albert Hirsch, Maurice Tubiana, François Grémy and Gérard Dubois) evaluated national public health programs of the five leading candidates and published results in prominent national newspapers such as Le Monde or Le Parisien. Macron’s public health program scored below the mean (7/20), ranking below all other candidates.7
Alain Braillon | Retired physician/researcher, Amiens, France
Corresponding author: [email protected]
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2. Schram A, Aisbet E, Townsend B, Labonté R, Baum F, Friel S. Toxic trade: the impact of preferential trade agreements on alcohol imports from Australia in partner countries. Addiction. 2020;115(7):1277–84.CrossRef | PubMed
3. Schram A, Townsend B, Youde J, Friel S. Public health over private wealth: rebalancing public and private interests in international trade and investment agreements. Public Health Res Pract. 2019;29(3):e2931919. CrossRef | PubMed
4. van Leeuwen H. 2021. UK tax plan could wipe out Aussie winemakers’ gains from FTA. London: Australian Financial Review; 2021. [cited 2022 Mar 25]. Available from: www.afr.com/companies/agriculture/uk-tax-plan-could-wipe-out-aussie-winemakers-gains-from-fta-20211217-p59imr.
5. SkyNews.com.au. Australia fights UK alcohol tax. Toowoomba: The Chronicle; 24 January 2022 [cited 2023 June 26]. Available from: www.thechronicle.com.au/news/national/australia-fights-uk-alcohol-tax/video/51307a0b048ea49a3545c69391c43b96
6. Cook J. Minimum alcohol pricing: five countries oppose Scottish drink plan. Scotland: BBC News; 25 July 2013 [cited 2023 June 26]. Available from: www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-22182607.
7. Groupe de 7. [Analysis and detailed scoring of the answers to our questions.] France: Securite-Sanitaire.org; 2017 [cited 2023 June 26]. Available from: www.securite-sanitaire.org/reponses2017/commentaires5.pdf.
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