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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Tobacco Industry and Pesticide Regulations: Case Studies from Tobacco Industry Archives

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Tobacco is a heavily pesticide-dependent crop. Because pesticides involve human safety and health issues, they are regulated nationally and internationally; however, little is known about how tobacco companies respond to regulatory pressures regarding pesticides. This study analyzes internal tobacco industry documents to describe industry activities aimed at influencing pesticide regulations. We use a case study approach based on examination of approximately 2,000 internal company documents and 3,885 pages of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The cases involve methoprene, the ethylene bisdithiocarbamates, and phosphine. We show how the tobacco industry successfully altered the outcome in two cases by hiring ex-agency scientists to write reports favorable to industry positions regarding pesticide regulations for national (Environmental Protection Agency) and international (World Health Organization) regulatory bodies. We also show how the industry worked to forestall tobacco pesticide regulation by attempting to self-regulate in Europe, and how Philip Morris encouraged a pesticide manufacturer to apply for higher tolerance levels in Malaysia and Europe while keeping tobacco industry interest a secret from government regulators. This study suggests that the tobacco industry is capable of exerting considerable influence over the pesticide regulatory process and that increased scrutiny of this process and protection of the public interest in pesticide regulation may be warranted.

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