OBJECTIVE: To evaluate how transnational tobacco companies, working through their local affiliates, influenced tobacco control policy-making in Argentina between 1966 and 2005.
METHODS: Analysis of internal tobacco industry documents, local newspapers and magazines, internet resources, bills from the Argentinean National Congress Library, and interviews with key individuals in Argentina.
RESULTS: Transnational tobacco companies (Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Lorillard, and RJ Reynolds International) have been actively influencing public health policymaking in Argentina since the early 1970s. As in other countries, in 1977 the tobacco industry created a weak voluntary self regulating code to avoid strong legislated restrictions on advertising. In addition to direct lobbying by the tobacco companies, these efforts involved use of third party allies, public relations campaigns, and scientific and medical consultants. During the 1980s and 1990s efforts to pass comprehensive tobacco control legislation intensified, but the organized tobacco industry prevented its enactment. There has been no national activity to decrease exposure to secondhand smoke.
CONCLUSIONS: The tobacco industry, working through its local subsidiaries, has subverted meaningful tobacco control legislation in Argentina using the same strategies as in the USA and other countries. As a result, tobacco control in Argentina remains governed by a national law that is weak and restricted in its scope.