Karen Evans-Reeves and John Baker
As many will be aware from an earlier blog post, in March 2019, the market research organisation Euromonitor International, which describes itself as “the world’s leading independent provider of strategic market research”, accepted funding from Phillip Morris International initiatives, namely the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and PMI IMPACT.
In the past week or so, many working in tobacco control have received correspondence from a Research Operations Manager working for Euromonitor asking if they would be willing to share their expertise on ‘sensitive’ industries such as the tobacco industry and other unhealthy commodity industries. Specifically, Euromonitor wants to know about our expertise on marketing and “harm reduction” products.
*The discussion will focus on the topic of how companies in “sensitive” industries (especially tobacco, but also alcohol, gambling, sugary snacks, soft drinks, etc) can limit the risk that their advertising leads non-users of the category, especially younger people, to start consuming their products. The conversation can be tailored to your specific area/industry of expertise, but some examples of topics would be:
Based on your research and experience, do you think that tobacco companies market their Reduced Risk Products in a responsible way? (i.e. avoiding marketing to youth, non-smokers, vulnerable groups)
Do you feel that legislation goes far enough in ensuring tobacco companies do not market their Reduced Risk Products to young people, non-smokers and other vulnerable groups?
What are the golden standards that tobacco companies need to adhere to in order to market their Reduced Risk Products in a responsible way?
Should legislation / guidelines be specific in terms of acceptable color schemes/creative styles etc., or should this be open to interpretation?
Is there an adjacent industry which you feel has successfully created a legislative framework to tackle irresponsible marketing? (e.g. alcohol, pharmaceutics, gambling, infant nutrition, soft drinks, sugary snacks etc.)
Excerpt taken from the emails sent to tobacco control colleagues
At no point in the email does Euromonitor disclose that the research is a project paid for by the industry-funded FSFW.
After a tobacco control colleague, in response to Euromonitor’s email, asked whether the company was taking any tobacco or e-cigarette industry money to conduct this research, Euromonitor responded that their client for this particular project was indeed the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
Ergo, academic experts who study unhealthy industries would be paid to tell these industries how to whitewash their marketing practices to make sure they get through policy barriers. Illegal? No. Unethical? Arguably so. But they could gain the immense satisfaction of being regarded as members of Euromonitor’s “elite Expert Panel for thought leaders around the globe” while getting paid for the privilege of lending their names to the reports arising from this “research.”
Euromonitor has come increasingly under scrutiny by academics who are disappointed by their collaboration with the tobacco industry. Nevertheless, despite the criticisms levied, it is clear that Euromonitor’s work with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World continues unabated.
Karen Evans-Reeves is the News Editor for Tobacco Control and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, UK.
John Baker is the Assistant News Editor for Tobacco Control and Project Officer in the Tobacco Control Unit at the Victorian Department of Health, Australia