September 11, 2017
by Guillaume Périgois

WHO pays the piper?

Should anybody who makes money in any field be ignored when they express their opinions on a policy that affects them? Or the “Follow the money” fallacy, WHO edition.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently suggested that tobacco companies should not have a say on tobacco regulation because (as Dr Vinayak Prasad, head of WHO’s tobacco control unit put it)

“industry’s key aim is to make profits, and they shouldn’t be at the table when it comes to national health policies”.

To follow this logic to its conclusion, anybody who makes money in any field should not be allowed to express their opinions on a policy that affects them. So car makers can have no say on industry policy, newspaper editors on press regulation, farmers on agriculture. Tell that to the protestors who regularly take to the street of Paris and Brussels with their tractors!

Arguments of this kind sound uncomfortably like attempts to silence your opposition just because you disagree with them. Also, how would you enforce such a measure?

Lobbying is never just a case of speaking to policy makers. It involves engaging with opinion formers and the wider public too, directly or through the media, in the knowledge that government listens to many voices that reflect public concerns. Should industry be prevented from speaking altogether?

Besides, when you consider those who have a financial interest in certain policy outcomes, you cannot stop at businesses. What about academics whose livelihood comes from corporate and government research funds? Or NGO’s in receipt of taxpayer and private money?

Even WHO gets its money and pays its salaries in exchange for achieving certain outcomes. It therefore has a financial interest in the policy matters it engages in.

Dr Prasad should be careful what he wishes for.

Your view:  Do you think money makes minds? Let me know on Twitter or at gp@forestonline.eu

Featured image: “Le Jour ni l’Heure 9881 : Raphaël Collin, 1850-1916, Daphnis et Chloé, 1877, dét., musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle, vendredi 22 août 2014, 14:51:19 by Renaud Camus is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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About Forest EU

Since 1979, Forest has been the leading voice in defending the rights of tobacco consumers and tolerant non-smokers. As an advocacy campaign, Forest EU informs consumers about issues that affect them in the European Union and engages with stakeholders so the views of informed adults are taken into account within the EU’s decision-making process. Forest EU doesn’t encourage smoking, accepts there are serious health risks associated with smoking tobacco and represents the consumer, not the tobacco industry. For more information, visit http://forestonline.eu/.

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