Brazil: balance of the National Tobacco Control Policy in the last decade and dilemmas

Tânia Maria Cavalcante Mariana Coutinho Marques de Pinho Cristina de Abreu Perez Ana Paula Leal Teixeira Felipe Lacerda Mendes Rosa Rulff Vargas Alexandre Octávio Ribeiro de Carvalho Erica Cavalcanti Rangel Liz Almeida About the authors


Since 2005, Brazil has been a Party of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty whose measures are the foundation of the National Tobacco-Control Policy (NTCP), of Brazil. The results evidence a significant decrease in the prevalence of smokers and in tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. These results, however, could have been even better if there wasn’t the interference of the tobacco supply chain (TSC), controlled by transnational corporations, which has become more intense over the last 10 years. These companies made Brazil not only a repository for tobacco, but also for economic and political power capable of threatening NTCP achievements. This Essay recounts the development of NTCP and the tobacco supply chain modus operandi to hamper it, and discusses how the strengthening of policies to promote alternative crops for tobacco could shield NTCP from such interference.

Smoking; Tobacco Industry; Control and Sanitary Supervision of Tobacco-Derived Products


Since 2005, Brazil has been a Party of the World Health Organization WHO-FCTC Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) 11. Presidência da República. Decreto de 1º de agosto de 2003. Cria a Comissão Nacional para Implementação da Convenção-Quadro para o Controle do Tabaco e de seus Protocolos. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
, an international health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO 22. World Health Organization. World Health Assembly Resolution 56.1, May, 21st 2003, that adopts the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Why the need for an international treaty to address a public health program? Since the 1970s, successive World Health Assemblies (WHA) acknowledged transnational market strategies of tobacco corporations as the main determinants of the tobacco epidemic 33. World Health Organization. Thirty-first World Health Assembly,WHA31.56 Health hazards of smoking, 1978. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. However, only in 1999, the 52nd WHA decided to negotiate the WHO-FCTC 44. World Health Organization. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,55. Roemer R, Taylor A, Lariviere J. Origins of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Am J Public Health 2005; 95:936-8..

Between October 1999 and February 2003 a complex collective negotiation process took place, permeated by clashes between health and commercial interests, since many tobacco-producing countries, including Brazil, took part in the negotiations 66. Mamudu H M, Hammond R, Glantz SA. International trade versus public health during the FCTC negotiations, 1999-2003. Tob Control 2011; 20:e3.. With this background, 192 countries elected Brazil to chair the negotiation of the Convention, an acknowledgement of its leadership in tobacco control, despite being a major tobacco-producing country.

In 2003, the WHO-FCTC final text 77. Yach D, Bettcher D. Globalisation of tobacco industry influence and new global responses. Tob Control 2000; 9:206-16. was approved by the 56th WHA. It included a set of multisectorial and cooperation actions divided into two focuses: reduction of deman and supply of tobacco. WHO-FCTC text in fact acknowledged that, alone, no country could confront the transnational dynamics of the tobacco market, and that actions by the health sector alone would not be sufficient to reach the goals of the Convention 88. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva. Observatório da Política Nacional de Controle do Tabaco. Convenção-Quadro. O que é. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

In 2005, when Brazil ratified the WHO-FCTC, many of its measures had already been implemented, to a greater or a lesser extent. Currently, a significant reduction in the prevalence of tobacco use and mortality from tobacco-related conditions, such as cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, and lung cancer has occurred. However, the challenges are still many, particularly those posed by the tobacco supply chain controlled by major transnational corporations that turned Brazil into a major producer and the largest exporter of this commodity. This fact is broadly used to advocate against the National Tobacco Control Policy (NTCP) of Brazil.

The ratification of the WHO-FCTC by Brazil entailed a long process of confrontation between the health and the tobacco productive sector. The tobacco industry had worked heavily to disseminate the idea that the Convention would forbid tobacco growing, and that the adhesion of Brazil would create a strong negative impact on the livelihood of 200,000 family-operated tobacco farms 99. Terra de Direitos - Organização de Direitos Humanos. Audiência pública sobre controle do tabaco vira palanque político, 2005. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,1010. Massierer C. A cobertura jornalística sobre a Convenção-Quadro Internacional para o Controle do Tabaco e o meio ambiente: um estudo de caso dos jornais Zero Hora, Correio do Povo e Folha do Mate. In: III Encontro Nacional de Pesquisadores em Jornalismo, 27 a 29 de novembro de 2005 Florianópolis - SC. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. Only after two years of discussion (2004 and 2005) in public hearings that took place in producing areas, the Federal Senate approved the WHO-FCTC ratification in October 2005 (Legislative Decree nº 1,012), and it became effective by Presidential Decree in Janeiro 2006 1111. Instituto Nacional de Câncer. A ratificação da convenção-quadro para o controle do tabaco pelo Brasil: mitos e verdades. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,1212. Presidência da República. Decreto nº 5.658, 2 de janeiro de 2006. Promulga a Convenção-Quadro sobre Controle do Uso do Tabaco, adotada pelos países membros da Organização Mundial de Saúde em 21 de maio de 2003 e assinada pelo Brasil em 16 de junho de 2003. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. Many studies have analyzed the historical process of the WHO-FCTC ratification in Brazil, and provided more details about the conflicts that permeated the process in that period 1313. Rangel EC. Enfrentamento do controle do tabagismo no Brasil: o papel das audiências públicas no Senado Federal na ratificação da Convenção-Quadro para o controle do tabaco (2004/2005) [Dissertação de Mestrado]. Rio de Janeiro: Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sergio Arouca, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz; 2011.,1414. Cavalcante TM. O Brasil e a Convenção-Quadro da Organização Mundial da Saúde para o controle do tabaco. In: Viegas CAA, organizadores. Tabagismo: do diagnóstico à saúde pública. São Paulo: Editora Atheneu; 2007. p. 293-314.,1515. Sogocio MPSC. O Brasil adverte: fumar é prejudicial à saúde. Análise do processo de ratificação da Convenção-Quadro para o Controle do Tabaco [Dissertação de Mestrado]. Brasília: Instituto Rio Branco; 2008.,1616. Mengel AA, Diesel V. Globalização, Convenção-Quadro para o controle do tabaco e as disputas pelos rumos dos territórios fumicultores. Revista IdeAS Interfaces em Desenvolvimento, Agricultura e Sociedade 2009; 3:226-55. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. The lengthy process made Brazil the 100th country to ratify the treaty, a delay that reflects tobacco industry attempts to belittle and weaken the WHO-FCTC by leaving out the country that led its entire process of negotiation.

This article analyses the evolution of the WHO-FCTC in Brazil, since its ratification in 2005, until 2015; and its main outcomes and challenges with focus on the control of the tobacco supply chain as the source of power for the tobacco industry to interfere in tobacco control policies. It also investigates the interference against tobacco-flavoring prohibition measures. To meet its goal, the text is organized taking the Convention as reference, with mention to the articles related to the issues addressed.

NTCP since WHO-FCTC ratification: governance, status and outcomes

When Brazil ratified the Convention, to a greater or lesser extent many of its measures had already been implemented in the country. Since 1989 the Ministry of Health, through the Brazilian National Cancer Institute José Alencar Gomes de Almeida (INCA), has articulated national tobacco-control actions. This initiative was based on a process of structuring and training State Health Secretariats in order to decentralize actions and to articulate partnerships with other governmental and non-governmental organizations, and led to the establishment of a solid network of governance of national tobacco-control actions 1717. Cavalcante TM. O controle do tabagismo no Brasil. Rev Psiquiatr Clín (São Paulo) 2005; 32:283-300..

With the ratification of the treaty, the NTCP has empowered, for being considered a Policy of the State. The NTCP follows the WHO-FCTC guidelines, and complies with the obligation of Brazil to adopt the treaty’s principles and regulations.

In 2003, upon completion of the negotiations, a Presidential Decree established the National Committee for the Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (CONICQ), with the mandate to promote ratification of the Convention and to define the schedule for its effective implementation, in accordance with WHO-FCTC art. 5.2, which addresses the development of a tobacco-control coordination system nationwide. Currently, 18 sectors of the federal government have a seat at CONICQ. The Committee is chaired by the Ministry of Health, and the INCA has the Executive Secretariat office 1818. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José de Alencar Gomes da Silva. Observatório da Política Nacional de Controle do Tabaco. CONICQ. A Comissão. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Over the 10 years after the ratification of the Convention, national tobacco-control measures were honed, expanded and new ones included. However, many of these achievements only came through after strongly confronting the obstructions posed by the tobacco industry.

Article 49 of Federal Law 12,546, of December 2011 1919. Presidência da República. Lei nº 12.546, de 14 de dezembro de 2011. Diário Oficial da União 2011; 15 dez., is a major achievement in the implementation of the FCTC, by addressing the measures established in article 6 (raising tobacco-product taxes and prices), article 8 (protection against passive smoking risks), and 13 (prohibition of tobacco-product advertisement, promotion and sponsorship).

Previous to that Law, the provision of WHO-FCTC article 8 was partially implemented in accordance with Federal Law 9,294, of July, 1996 2020. Presidência da República. Lei nº 9.294, de 15 de julho de 1996. Dispõe sobre as restrições ao uso e à propaganda de produtos fumígeros, bebidas alcoólicas, medicamentos, terapias e defensivos agrícolas, nos termos do § 4° do art. 220 da Constituição Federal. Diário Oficial da União 1996; 16 jul., for it admitted designated smoking areas (smoking lounges). Starting in 2007, CONICQ spared no effort to improve the federal law, in order to ban smoking in public spaces (no more smoking lounges), but was confronted by a strong opposing lobby of the tobacco industry in Congress. In 2008, some Brazilian states passed state legislation aligned with the Convention guidelines, banning smoking lounges. However, lawsuits proposed by tobacco industry-related organizations questioned the constitutionality of these laws, because they were more strict than the Federal Law 9,294/1996, in effect 2121. Lei antifumo é considerada inconstitucional pela Justiça. Extra 2009. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,2222. Organização Panamericana de Saúde; Instituto Nacional de Câncer. Respira Brasil: as legislações de ambientes livres de fumo das cinco regiões do Brasil. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
, but their motivation was to prevent a cascade effect in the reduction of the number of smokers 2323. Instituto Nacional de Câncer. Tabagismo passivo. A importância de uma legislação que gere ambientes 100% livres de fumaça de tabaco. Nota técnica. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Of note is that article 49 of Federal Law 12,546/2011 was based on an amendment to Provisional Measure 540 (PM 540), sent by the federal government to Congress in August 2011. The goal of PM 540 was to unburden some economic sectors while, in compensation, raising taxes on cigarettes 2424. Olhar Direto. Relator da MP que aumenta imposto do cigarro propõe liberar fumo em bar, 2011 Relator da MP que aumenta imposto do cigarro propõe liberar fumo em bar, 2011 (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. However, the amendment made the NTCP retrogress, by withdrawing from the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) the power to regulate tobacco products. This is why, at the time, PM 540 was so strongly criticized and disputed by many health organizations and some congress representatives 2525. Aliança de Controle do Tabaco. Irresponsabilidade social. ACTBr Boletim 2011; 76. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,2626. Governo estuda liberação do fumo em bares do país. Jornal do Brasil 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,2727. Portal GTerra. Volta dos fumódromos em restaurantes em discussão, 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,2828. Emenda contraria leis antitabaco e propõe fumódromo disfarçado. Deputado defende abertura de bares específicos para quem fuma. Entidades que são contra o cigarro consideram proposta um retrocesso. Gazeta do Povo 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

After much discussion, the amendment was adjusted to meet the Convention guidelines, and approved in December 2011. Hence, article 49 of Federal Law 12,546/2011 banned smoking in indoor public spaces, no exceptions made. However, its implementation depended on a Presidential Decree establishing the rules for its enforcement, such as the definition of what an indoor public space was: only a fully closed space or if patios and balconies were included. Despite strong demands from society 2929. Câmara dos Deputados. Deputados e especialistas pedem regulamentação imediata da Lei Antifumo. Lei proíbe fumo em ambientes coletivos fechados em todo o país, mas falta de regulamentação pelo Executivo faz com que não seja fiscalizada, 2013 (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).,3030. Unidade de Pesquisa Álcool e Drogas. Regulamentação da lei antifumo está emperrada há sete meses, 2012. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
, this Decree was approved only in May 2014, and it has been questioned by legal experts for admitting exceptions not included in the federal law 3131. Vianna CGF, Vedovato LR, Barata D. Apontamentos sobre o Decreto 8.262/14 à luz do controle do tabagismo e da Convenção-Quadro para o Controle do Tabaco. Cad Ibero Am Direito Sanit (Impr.) 2014; 3:149-60.. Notwithstanding, it was a major victory of public health over obstructions created by the tobacco industry, making Brazil the first megacountry to become 100% free from environmental tobacco smoke 3232. PR Newswire - a Cision Company. Brazil to become world's largest smoke-free country, 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Since 2000, advertisement has been forbidden in the mass media, but allowed at points of sale (Federal Law 10,167/2000). With law, 12,546/2011, advertisement at points of sale also became forbidden, in compliance with article 13 of the WHO-FCTC. However, more and more the manufacturers are using the packs as advertisement media. Therefore, strategies are being discussed to ban displaying the packs of tobacco products at points of sale, a measure already adopted by some countries, and to standardize the packs in terms of colors and shapes, as in Australia and, soon, in many European countries 3333. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva. Notas técnicas para controle do tabagismo: Embalagem padronizada de produtos de tabaco. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,3434. Canadian Cancer Society. Advertências sanitárias nas embalagens de cigarros, relatório situacional internacional, 2014. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Regarding article 6 of the Convention, since 2007 the Internal Revenue Office (Secretaria da Receita Federal - SRF), of Brazil, had been gradually raising federal taxes on cigarettes, thus successively increasing the price of these products, which used to be among the cheapest in the world 3535. Guindon GE, Tobin S, Yach D. Trends and affordability of cigarette prices: ample room for tax increases and related health gains. Tob Control 2002; 11:35-43.. In 2011, Federal Law 12,546/2011 and Presidential Decree 7,555/2011 raised the federal excise tax on cigarettes, generating a tax load between 72% and 81%, and an increase in the final price of these products to the consumer; this measure is acknowledged as one of the most effective in reducing smoking. The legislation also established a minimum price policy for cigarettes 3636. Cavalcante TM. Experiencia brasileña com politicas de control del tabaquismo. Salud Pública Méx 2004; 46:549-58.,3737. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva. Secretaria Executiva da Comissão Nacional para Implementação da Convenção-Quadro para controle do Tabaco (CONICQ). (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Regarding article 11 of the WHO-FCTC, since 2001 Brazil has regulated that public health warnings with pictures should be printed on the entire back of cigarette and other tobacco-product packs 3838. Instituto Nacional de Câncer. Brasil: advertências sanitárias nos produtos de tabaco 2009. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. Now, Federal Law 12,546/2011 established that, starting in 2016, the warning “this product causes cancer” should be printed on a black rectangle covering 30% of the front of the pack 3939. Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária. Consulta Pública nº 17, de 5 de março de 2015. Proposta de RDC para regulamentação de advertência sanitária que ocupará trinta por cento da parte inferior da face frontal das embalagens de produtos fumígenos derivados do tabaco, em cumprimento à Lei 12.564/2011 e ao Decreto 8.262/2014. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Smoking-cessation treatment, in compliance with WHO-FCTC article 14, had been implemented in 1,300 public health care facilities of 604 cities by 2013, attending an average of 150,000 smokers a year 4040. Comissão Nacional para Implementação da Convenção-Quadro para o Controle do Tabaco, Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva. Política Nacional de Controle do Tabaco: relatório de gestão e progresso 2013-2014. (acessado em 14/Fev/2017).

In terms of tobacco-product regulation, in compliance with articles 9 and 10 of the WHO-FCTC, since 2001 the Anvisa requires the manufacturers to present a list of product components, forbids the use of expressions such as “low levels”, “light”, “ultra-light” and similar since they lead to the mistaken perception that safer cigarettes exist. In 2012, Anvisa banned the use of additives in tobacco products 4141. Observatório da Política Nacional de Controle do Tabaco, Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva. Status da política, regulação dos produtos.ítica/regulacao_dos_produtos (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. This matter will be revisited in the chapter about the tobacco supply chain strategies to interfere in the NTCP.

The National Program for Diversification in Tobacco-Growing Areas (PNDACT), developed under the coordination of the Ministry of Agrarian Development, meets the requirements of WHO-FCTC article 17 (the development of economically feasible alternatives to tobacco farming), and follows the principles of sustainable rural development established by the National Program for Strengthening Family Farming. This program has reached some 800 cities, and 45,000 tobacco-farming families between 2006 and 2013 4242. Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário. Brasil defende a agricultura familiar nas deliberações da COP 6, na Rússia, 2014. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,4343. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José de Alencar Gomes da Silva. CONICQ: documentos e publicações - relatório de gestão da CONICQ 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,4444. Departamento de Assistência Técnica e Extensão Rural, Secretaria da Agricultura Familiar, Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário. Chamada pública para seleção de entidade executora de assistência técnica e extensão rural para agricultores/as familiares inseridos em municípios com produção de tabaco na região Sul do Brasil. Chamada Pública SAF/ATER n° 06/2013, 2013. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,4545. Departamento de Assistência Técnica e Extensão Rural, Secretaria da Agricultura Familiar, Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário. Chamada pública para seleção de entidade executora de assistência técnica e extensão rural para municípios fumicultores dos estados do sul e nordeste. Chamada Pública SAF/ATER n° 04/2011, 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Over the past 20 years, the prevalence of smoking in the population older than 18 years has dropped about 46% (from 34% in 1989 to 18.5% in 2008) 4646. Levy D, Almeida LM, Szklo A. The Brazil simsmoke policy simulation model: the effect of strong tobacco control policies on smoking prevalence and smoking-attributable deaths in a middle income nation. PLoS Med 2012; 9:e1001336.. In 2013, this rate was even lower, 14.7% 4747. Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. Pesquisa Nacional de Saúde, 2013: percepção do estado de saúde, estilo de vida e doenças crônicas. Brasil, grandes regiões e unidades da federação. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. This is surprising, as a decrease in the reduction rate was expected, and has occurred in many countries 4848. Reid JL, Hammond D, Burkhalter R, Rynard VL, Ahmed R. Tobacco use in Canada: patterns and trends, 2013 edition. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,4949. Mepage Today. Primary care. Adult smoking hits plateau, 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. However, in the past five years, the prevalence of smoking dropped almost half the rate observed in 20 years, possibly due to a catalytic effect of WHO-FCTC national and global implementation. Other studies have supported this reduction trend 5050. Rabahi MF, Alcântara EC. Tendência temporal da endemia do tabagismo no Brasil. Rev Méd Minas Gerais 2015; 25:140-2..

A special edition of the Lancet, published in 2011 on health in Brazil, showed that mortality from chronic noncommunicable diseases dropped 20% between 1996 and 2007, particularly due to reductions in cardiovascular (31%) and respiratory (38%) diseases; these results are attributed, in part, to smoking reduction in Brazil 5151. Schmidt MI, Duncan BB, Azevedo e Silva G, Menezes AM, Monteiro CA, Barreto SM, et al. Chronic non-communicable diseases in Brazil: burden and current challenges. Lancet 2011; 377:1949-61.. In turn, the Atlas of Cancer Mortality, made available online by INCA 5252. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva. Atlas on-line de mortalidade. Taxas de mortalidade para as 5 localizações primárias mais frequentes, por período selecionado, ajustadas por idade, pela população mundial, por 100.000, segundo sexo. (acessado em 04/Abr/2016).
, shows that world-population and age-adjusted lung cancer mortality among men dropped from 17.16 per 100,000 in 1999 to 15.54 per 100,000 in 2012. Among women, however, even though in smaller figures than men, the rate increased from 6.34 to 8.18 per 100,000 in the same period. The fact that women had started to smoke at a later age and in a smaller proportion than men, and are still under the cohort effect of this exposure may account for this phenomenon.

The tobacco supply chain and its power of interference

Brazil is currently the second largest producer and the largest exporter of tobacco, serving as a big warehouse, globally articulated and operated by the transnational corporations that develop tobacco-expansion strategies 5353. Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations Statistics Division. FAOSTAT. Food and agriculture data. FAOSTAT (acessado em 24/Ago/2015). FAOSTAT ...
. Of note is the fact that this warehouse is not only for crops, but it is, in fact, a warehouse of political and economic power. For this reason, one of the main challenges of the NTCP is to face the power of interference of the tobacco supply chain, which has intensified over the last 10 years, as Brazil moves forward with the implementation of the WHO-FCTC.

Presently, the three southernmost states of Brazil account for 98% of the tobacco crops. The remaining 2% are in the Northeastern region 5454. Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. Produção agrícola municipal. Quantidade produzida de fumo 2013. Brasil e Unidade da Federação. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

The tobacco supply chain includes small family farms that grow tobacco, processing mills, tobacco product manufacturing facilities, distributors, exporters and retailers. According to the Brazilian Association of Tabaco Farmes (Afubra), for the 2013/2014 crop, 2.2 million people were involved in this chain, in Brazil 5555 . Associação dos Fumicultores do Brasil. Empregos no setor fumageiro. Safra 2013/2014. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. Different tobacco transnational corporations, processing, and exporting companies are the strongest links of this chain, which is also globally articulated 5656. Bonato A, Zotti CF, Angelis T. Tabaco, da produção ao consumo uma cadeia da dependência, 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

The farming component of the chain integrates a system in which the tobacco company provides the farmers the inputs for their activity, and the farmers commit to selling the entire crop to the company according to a purchase and sale agreement. This dynamic allows the companies to control the chain, from growing the crop to selling the tobacco product 5757. Bonato AA. A fumicultura no Brasil e a Convenção-Quadro para Controle do Tabaco, 2007. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

In this setting, mention should be made that the cycles of production and consumption of tobacco products are of a single system with articulated feedback by the same tobacco transnational corporations (Figure 1). In the consumption cycle, the teenager, the main target of these companies, is led to tobacco addiction through marketing strategies (product advertisement and promotion, attractive packs, flavors and scents in the products, strategic positioning of the products in the points of sale, low cost). In the production cycle, the main target is the small family farmer, social and economically vulnerable. Seduced by the idea that planting tobacco entails wealth and quality of life, these farmers are led to a vicious cycle of debt and economic dependency.

Figure 1
Global dynamics reflecting the power of the tobacco industry in coordinating tobacco production and use.

Tobacco growing is the main activity of most farmers, who are the weakest link of the tobacco supply chain, and also the most strategic for tobacco corporations because: (1) the cheap labor of family farming makes the costs of Brazilian tobacco-growing low, hence the power of the industry in keeping the final price of cigarettes and other tobacco products low; and (2) controlling tobacco farming is a “escape valve” for the tobacco industry, as it allows that tax increases or revenue losses from reduced demand of tobacco products are passed on to the prices they pay the farmers per kilo of tobacco 5858. Bonato AA. Fumo - a fumicultura e a Convenção-Quadro: desafios para a diversificação, 2009. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,5959. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva. Notas técnicas para o controle do tabagismo: a importância e a urgência da diversificação de produção em áreas que produzem tabaco no Brasil. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,6060. Associação dos Fumicultores do Brasil. Mutualidade. Perfil do fumicultor. Informações gerais. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

This game of self-interest increases the economic vulnerability of tobacco farmers 6161. World Health Organization. Framework convention on tobacco control. Parties to the WHO FCTC. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
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. This is because 85% of the Brazilian tobacco crops are exported, and that depends more on tobacco global conjuncture than the domestic scenario. In addition, until July 2015, 180 countries had ratified the WHO-FCTC, including China and Russia, the two largest tobacco-product consumers in the world, and were implementing most of its measures and guidelines. Many countries already present significant decreases in prevalence of smokers 6666. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Health at a glance: Europe 2012. Smoking among adults. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
, and the Global Progress Report on Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control published in October 2014 highlights that “more than two thirds of the treaty parties presented reduction in the prevalence of smoking6767. Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Global progress in implementation of the WHO FCTC - a summary, Report by the Convention Secretariat, 2014. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

The idea that tobacco growing is promising for the economy is a vision 6868. Sindicato Interestadual da Indústria do Tabaco. Exportações. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,6969. Departamento de Estudos Sócio Rurais. De olho no mundo do tabaco. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
disconnected from a global scenario that shows signs of slowing down. Assessment of the tobacco industry by the international market monitors estimated for 2015 a significant decrease in sales volume of the four main transnational tobacco corporations, including those that coordinate the tobacco supply chain in Brazil, and a significant surplus of the global tobacco offer, causing an abrupt drop of 30% in the revenue of the main tobacco trading companies 7070. Lambat I. Tobacco 2015: could it be a watershed year? Tobacco International 2015. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. This scenario is reflected in Brazil with a 24% drop of tobacco-leaf exports in 2014 compared to 2013, and the amount “dumped” by tobacco farmers. According to data by Afubra, in 2005 this tobacco farming involved almost 200,000 family farms, whereas in 2013/2014, it involved some 162,000 family farms 7171. Associação dos Fumicultores do Brasil. Fumicultura Brasil. Evolução da fumicultura. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. Notwithstanding, the discourse encouraging tobacco growing is repeated like a mantra by organizations connected with the tobacco supply chain, and by Congress representatives of producing areas, who join efforts to work against tobacco-use reduction measures 7272. Patrocínio enfumaçado. Revista Veja 2009. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,7373. Expoagro Afubra 2012 - Lideranças defendem a união em prol da fumicultura. Radio Sobradinho; 2012. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,7474. Na bagagem, a defesa do tabaco brasileiro. Gazeta do Sul 2014. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,7575. AMPROTABACO: entidade que defende municípios produtores de tabaco empossa nova diretoria. Rádio Difusora do Xisto 2015. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. Thus, tobacco companies develop complex relationships of power and influence, and seek to strengthen themselves economically and politically. The political bias of the web of relationships lies particularly in supporting and funding candidates to city, state and federal legislative houses, strengthening the representation of legislature members who advocate the interests of the tobacco sector in producing states and, particularly, in the National Congress 7676. Correio Brasiliense. A bancada do tabaco. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,7777. Maria Frô. Financiado pela indústria tabagista deputado vota contra indígenas, quilombolas e conservação ambiental. Revista Forum 2008. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,7878. Fumo ajudou a eleger 13 congressistas. Folha de S. Paulo 2008. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).,7979. Deputado que apoia fumódromo recebeu doação da indústria. Folha de S. Paulo 2008. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,8080. Congresso em Foco. Luiz Carlos Heinze, 2006. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

The more Brazil has shown positive results in tobacco-use reduction, the stronger and more frequent the strategies of the tobacco industry have been, reinforcing the importance of article 5.3 of the WHO-FCTC, requiring the Parties to protect their national tobacco-control policies from undue interference from the tobacco industry and connected organizations.

In this perspective, will be analyzed an emblematic case concerning the interference against the implementation of one of the WHO-FCTC article 9 guidelines (regulation of tobacco-product contents): the prohibition by Anvisa of using additives in cigarettes and other tobacco-products.

The reaction of the tobacco supply chain against Anvisa’s prohibition of using additives in cigarettes in Brazil

Since the end of 2010, Brazil has tried to put into effect the WHO-FCTC guideline of limiting the use of additives in cigarettes and similar products, approved by the fourth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP4) in Uruguay, in 2010 8181. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

This decision was based on studies that show that the additives were developed by the tobacco industry in the 1970s, in order to minimize the aversion caused by the unpleasant flavor of tobacco and throat irritation caused by the smoke, particularly in beginner smokers. Some additives sweeten the flavor of cigarettes, which is particularly attractive to adolescents; others, such as ammonia, increase the addictive capability of nicotine. Some studies have also shown that such additives enhance the toxicity potential of tobacco products 8282. World Health Organization. WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg). (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,8383. Talhout R, Opperhuizen A, van Amsterdan JG. Sugars as tobacco ingredient: Effects on mainstream smoke composition. Food Chem Toxicol 2006; 44:1789-98.,8484. Action on Smoking and Health; Imperial Cancer and Research Fund. Tobacco additives. Cigarette engineering and nicotine addiction, 1999. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,8585. World Health Organization. The scientific basis of tobacco product regulation: report of a WHO study group. Geneva. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Notwithstanding, in Brazil there has been strong opposition articulated by the tobacco industry against this guideline, with support of legislative representatives and politicians from tobacco-producing areas. In fact, a national campaign against this measure was launched, even before the COP4 decision in favor of the guideline.

At that time, representatives of the tobacco industry and congress representatives lobbied the high echelons of government to prevent the Brazilian delegation to vote in favor of the approval of the guideline at the COP4 8686. Parlamentares a favor da indústria de fumo e contra aditivos em cigarros. Correio do Estado 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,8787. Deputado Federal Luiz Carlos HEINZE. Heinze solicita audiência com grupo de ministros que discutem posição do Brasil sobre Convenção-Quadro Heinze solicita audiência com grupo de ministros que discutem posição do Brasil sobre Convenção-Quadro (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,8888. Deputado Federal Luiz Carlos HEINZE. Comissão de Agricultura apela a Lula para que Brasil reveja posição sobre Convenção-Quadro, 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,8989. Afubra e federações pressionam por posição favorável do Brasil no Uruguai, 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. They advocated the idea that such a measure would prevent the use of burley tobacco to manufacture cigarettes, and would negatively impact the livelihood of 50,000 families who grew that type of tobacco in Brazil 9090. Fumo tipo Burley na corda bamba. Produtores temem nova resolução da Convenção-Quadro, que pode desestimular o cultivo da variedade. Correio do Povo 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. They stated that this type of tobacco required sugar to be added, in order to mask its unpleasant flavor and throat irritation caused by the smoke. They even pressured the Brazilian government to join other countries in questioning the Canadian government before the World Trade Organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, about the additives ban imposed by that country 9191. World Trade Organization. Technical barriers to trade - tobacco and alcohol again among members' trade concerns. Canada - Bill C-32 Amendment to the "Tobacco Act" (previously raised). (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

During 2010, CONICQ was committed to correcting the misinformation disseminated by the tobacco industry about the measure. To that end, it made an analysis of the scenario that supported the Brazilian delegation stand at COP4 9292. Google Patentes. Pressurized tobacco drying process US 6718988 B1. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,9393. Free patent online. Tobacco treatment process. United States Patent 6131584. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. Hence, Brazil not only maintained its position to support the approval of the guidelines at the COP4 meeting, but also, in November 2010, Anvisa organized a public consultation on a measure to ban additives 9494. Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária. Consulta Pública nº 112, de 29 de novembro de 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
Consulta Pública nº 112, de 29 de novemb...
,9595. Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária. Consulta Pública nº 117, de 27 de dezembro de 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. The tobacco supply chain reaction was strong: federal, state and city legislators connected to tobacco producing applied pressures against this initiative, and a number of public hearings were held in the southern, tobacco-producing states, to expand the opposition against Anvisa 9696. Câmara dos Deputados. Notas taquigráficas de Audiência Publica da Comissão de Agricultura da Câmara dos Deputados, 2010. Assunto: Discussão sobre a situação dos trabalhadores e produtores da variedade de fumo Burley no Brasil. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,9797. Estados e setor fumo vão a Brasília contra a ANVISA. Gazeta do Sul 2011 Gazeta do Sul 2011 (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,9898. Deputado diz que propostas da Anvisa podem inviabilizar plantio de tabaco. Em Questão 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,9999. Fumicultores mantêm esperança de reverter consultas da Anvisa. Entidades acreditam que possível proibição de açúcar e aromatizantes nos cigarros pode inviabilizar a atividade no país, 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,100100. Cadeia produtiva do tabaco se mobiliza contra propostas da Anvisa, 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

A federal congressman presented a Legislative Decree to withhold the Anvisa public consultation (CP 112) 101101. Deputado Luiz Carlos HEINZE. Heinze quer sustar consulta da Anvisa que pode acabar com fumicultura brasileira, 2010. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. This congressman’s campaign was funded by a tobacco company that operates in his state, Rio Grande do Sul 102102. Luiz Carlos Heinze Financiadores de Campanha. Congresso em Foco 2006..

In addition to organizing political pressure against Anvisa, Afubra has coordinated a strategy to delay the compilation and assessment of inputs to the public consultation by Anvisa. Taking advantage of the lack of information and vulnerability of tobacco farmers, Afubra was able to mobilize 200,000 people against the measures proposed 103103. Associação Brasileira de Fumicultores do Brasil. Mais de 200 mil formulários devem chegar à Anvisa, 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
. To that end, Afubra organized the logistics for collecting the inputs and sending them to Anvisa. Most of the inputs were limited to the message “I am against”. By doing that, the analysis of the inputs by Anvisa was delayed by almost 6 months - which was openly celebrated by Afubra 104104. Agência Brasil. Grande número de contribuições atrasa consulta pública da Anvisa que proíbe aromatizantes em cigarros, 2011. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

In addition to this interference on a nationwide scope, the announcement of Anvisa’s public consultation about the ban of additives also prompted an international reaction by some tobacco-producing countries that questioned Brazil at the WTO’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. According to the report of the Committee’s formal meeting, “Producers and exporters of Burley and Oriental varieties of tobacco perceive the ban on additives to be a de facto prohibition on ‘blended’ tobacco products (conventionally produced by blending these varieties of tobacco with a number of additives) in the Brazilian market. About 15 members said that this regulation was more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve Brazil’s objective. This was particularly important for some countries, including African and least-developed countries (Zambia, Tanzania, Dominican Republic, Mozambique, Kenya), which depend on the sale of Burley and Oriental tobacco for national revenue...” 105105. World Trade Organization. Technical barriers to trade: formal meeting. Members concerned about public health. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

This reaction shows the transnational reach and power of multinational tobacco corporations which, by controlling the tobacco supply chain, can interfere in tobacco-control policies of other countries, even non producers, through free-trade international agreements.

Despite the strong movement against the measure, in March 2012, Anvisa published the Collegiate Board Resolution (RDC) 14, banning the sales of tobacco products with any flavoring or scenting additives. The tobacco industry, however, proposed a number of law suits. The most important one was proposed by the National Industry Confederation (CNI), that presented a Direct Unconstitutionality Suit (ADI 4874) questioning the power of Anvisa to regulate tobacco products, hence the ban of additives. In September 2013, the Brazilian Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction suspending the measure, which is still in effect at the submission of this article 106106. Supremo Tribunal Federal. Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade nº 4.874. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Worthy of mention is that the ADI also placed at stake the role of Anvisa in regulating the trading of products and inputs that are hazardous to health. In an interview, the director-president of Anvisa explained the threat the ADI posed in questioning Anvisa’s legitimacy in regulating health-related products: “the CNI, to meet the demand of an industry sector - cigarette manufacturers - challenged the legislation that created Anvisa. If their arguments are accepted by the Brazilian Supreme Court, the segments of drugs, food and medical products will fall into a regulatory limbo, in the midst of extreme legal instability. It is the industry of disease, of the cigarette, preventing the health industry to operate” 107107. Entrevista: Dirceu Barbano Diretor-presidente da Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa) In: Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária. Brasil Econômico. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

In December 2013, Anvisa established a working group with local and international experts on this subject, in order to assess the additives used in the tobacco products listed in Anvisa’s Normative Instruction 6/2013. In August 2014, the working group final report recommended Anvisa’s Collegiate Board Resolution be revised to include sugar among the banned additives; it had originally been excluded in the list of banned additives due to the strong lobby of the tobacco industry 108108. Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária. Portaria nº 1.980, de 24 de dezembro de 2013. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,109109. Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária. Relatório do grupo de trabalho sobre aditivos em tabaco, 2014. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).

Until the time this essay was written, the ADI had not been judged, and the additives banning is on hold, meaning that cigarettes with additives can be sold in Brazil.

This sequence of facts shows the interference capability of the tobacco supply chain, and its power to supersede scientific evidence and recommendations by health institutions to maintain the profitability of their business.

Final considerations

Notwithstanding the advances in tobacco control, the situation of major tobacco producers still poses a great challenge for public health in Brazil. In addition to the social responsibility of developing policy of alternatives to a tobacco-growing to safeguard hundreds of thousands of farmers from an expected global reduction in tobacco demand, the NTCP also faces more and more intense obstructionist strategies of the tobacco supply chain against the necessary adjustments, particularly those of regulatory nature.

The tobacco supply chain works with misinformation, i.e., that tobacco growing is still a great opportunity for Brazilian foreign trade, and that tobacco-control measures adopted nationwide hamper this dynamic. Concurrently, they disqualify PNDACT capability to provide “alternatives as profitable as tobacco”.

The organization power of the tobacco supply chain helps in electing and defeating congressional candidates from the producing areas. This is one of the reasons why the claims of the tobacco industry, despite being fallacious, politically intimidate all those who speak against their interests 110110. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Action on Smoking and Health. Trust us: we're the tobacco industry. Tobacco industry lobbying, 2001. (acessado em 24/Ago/2015).
,111111. Monardi F, Glantz SA. Are tobacco industry campaign contributions influencing state legi slative behavior? Am J Public Health 1998; 88:918-23.,112112. Glantz SA, Begay ME. Tobacco industry campaign contributions are affecting tobacco control policymaking in California. JAMA 1994; 272:1176-82..

Over the last decades, the tobacco supply chain has expanded its ability to reach federal and state levels of government, and, at the very least, has been able to slow decision-making by officials and congress representatives on measures to strengthen the NTCP, including PNDACT.

In this setting, it is essential to understand that, thanks to the economic and political interaction promoted by the tobacco supply chain, major tobacco corporations gain power and political influence.

Hence, the implementation of article 17 of the WHO-FCTC (economically viable alternatives to tobacco growing), which, in Brazil, is conducted by the PNDACT, must be strengthened and seen as a mechanism for the implementation of article 5.3 of the WHO-FCTC, since reducing the number of farmers that depend on tobacco will also limit the political power of major transnational tobacco corporations to interfere with demand-reduction measures.


To the Brazilian National Cancer Institute José Alencar Gomes da Silva, Ministry of Health, Brazil, and to the representations of the Federal Government at the National Committee for the Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (CONICQ).


Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    21 Sept 2017


  • Received
    25 Aug 2015
  • Reviewed
    08 Apr 2016
  • Accepted
    02 May 2016
Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sergio Arouca, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil