Chronic diseases and premature deaths: the impact of powerful industry lobbies

A new WHO Europe report highlights how big industries fuel chronic diseases, hinder health policies and target vulnerable people. Curious to know which ones?

Chronic diseases and premature deaths are the harrowing reality brought upon us each year by some of the world’s most powerful lobbies, deceiving us with the sole aim of driving higher consumption of their products.

According to a new report from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, four specific industries are fueling poor health and premature mortality in Europe and Central Asia. They interfere with and influence efforts to prevent and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and their risk factors, including tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diets, and obesity.

The report, titled “Commercial Determinants of Noncommunicable Diseases in the WHO European Region,” provides an insightful look at the array of tactics used by industries to maximize profits while undermining public health efforts, creating a significant obstacle to prevention policies.

The four lobbies

Tobacco, ultra-processed foods, fossil fuels, and alcohol are the four products responsible for 19 million deaths globally each year, which accounts for 34% of all deaths. In the European region alone, these industries are responsible for 2.7 million deaths annually. The report highlights how the consolidation of these industries has allowed them to wield significant influence over political and legal frameworks, obstructing public interest regulations that could affect their profit margins.

“These major commercial entities block regulations that would protect the public from harmful products and marketing, and shield health policy from industry interference,” stated Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Industry tactics include exploiting vulnerable people through targeted marketing strategies, deceiving consumers, and making false claims about the benefits of their products or their environmental credentials. These tactics threaten the public health gains of the past century and prevent countries from meeting their health targets. Today, we provide indisputable evidence of harmful commercial practices and products, and we say: people must come before profit, always.”

The report clearly shows how commercial actors across different sectors engage in identical practices to shape structural, political, and informational environments. Their primary goals are profit generation, maximizing product sales, and promoting consumption.

Deception by lobbies and their strategies

The report details how “big industry” uses both overt and covert methods to delay, discourage, and block policies on non-communicable diseases, such as tobacco control measures and mandatory health and nutritional labeling for food and alcoholic products.

In addition to tactics aimed at derailing health protection policies, the report documents some of the harmful industry practices in disease management, such as inequitable pricing and availability of cancer drugs, and the promotion of unproven and unregulated screening tests. Common strategies include political lobbying, spreading misinformation in the media, harmful financial practices, and targeted marketing strategies directed at children and young people.

“For too long, we have viewed risk factors as primarily tied to individual choices. We must reframe the issue as a systemic problem, where policy must combat ‘hyper-consumption environments,’ limit marketing, and end interference in decision-making processes,” concludes P. Kluge.


The article draws upon studies published and recommendations from international institutions and/or experts. We do not make claims in the medical-scientific field and report the facts as they are. Sources are indicated at the end of each article.
Condividi su Whatsapp Condividi su Linkedin