Tobacco industry globalization and global health governance: towards an interdisciplinary research agenda

Abstract

Shifting patterns of tobacco production and consumption and the resultant disease burden worldwide since the late twentieth century, prompted efforts to strengthen global health governance through adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. While the treaty is rightfully considered an important achievement, to address a neglected public health issue through collective action, evidence suggests that tobacco industry globalization continues apace. In this article, we provide a systematic review of the public health literature and reveal definitional and measurement imprecision, ahistorical timeframes, transnational tobacco companies and the state as the primary units and levels of analysis and a strong emphasis on agency as opposed to structural power. Drawing on the study of globalization in international political economy and business studies, we identify opportunities to expand analysis along each of these dimensions. We conclude that this expanded and interdisciplinary research agenda provides the potential for fuller understanding of the dual and dynamic relationship between the tobacco industry and globalization. Deeper analysis of how the industry has adapted to globalization over time, as well as how the industry has influenced the nature and trajectory of globalization, is essential for building effective global governance responses. This article is published as part of a thematic collection dedicated to global governance.

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