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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The tobacco industry and the health controversy in Canada : a study in interest group politics Wattenberg, Mark Henry


This thesis is an account of the response of the cigarette manufacturers to threats to their interests arising from the smoking and health issue. The purpose of the paper is to provide a case study of a Canadian interest group, and specifically, of a Canadian business group. The tobacco industry offers advantages as a subject because of the availability of published material on numerous facets of the smoking and health controversy, including a year of legislative hearings. As a case study, the paper is essentially descriptive rather than theoretical. It is divided into four chapters. The first chapter deals with the characteristics and strategic position of the industry, including the nature of the forces in opposition. The second chapter describes the government institutions concerned with the smoking and health issue and the access of the industry to these institutions. The third chapter describes the evolution of governmental policy and evaluates the effectiveness of the pressures, direct and indirect, brought to bear by the industry. The concluding chapter places the pattern of interaction between the industry and the government in a comparative perspective and suggests a categorization of the Canadian experience. It is hoped by this approach, rather than a chronological description, to describe with some thoroughness the forms of pressure or influence exerted by the industry on the policy-makers concerned with the issue in question. Three conclusions derive from the account. First, the main focus of activity was at the departmental level, though the Commons played a substantial role. Second, the industry operated from a position of strength by virtue of its economic position and the dependence of other groups on its welfare. Pressures from this position were a major force in preventing abrupt governmental interference with its commercial activities, despite the seriousness of the health issue. Third, the success and setbacks of the American tobacco industry influenced the course of events in Canada. It is suggested that these conclusions may have some general application to Canadian interest group theory, though their main reference is to the case study conducted. The study draws heavily on the hearings of the Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs, publications of the Department of National Health and Welfare, publications of the industry, and Hansard. Officials in Ottawa provided information on a number of developments. Reports in the Globe and Mail and the Financial Post also proved valuable. Where appropriate, reference is made to studies of other Canadian interest groups and observations from interest group theory in general. The structure of the paper is to be a large extent inspired by the introductory chapter in Harry Eckstein's Pressure Group Politics, which emphasizes the manifold nature of pressure and the variety of factors determining its form and direction.

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