July 2021 – Volume 30 – 4
RISK ASSESSMENT GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL JOINS TOBACCO INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
The revolving door from government to the tobacco industry and its allies is a familiar story to long-time tobacco industry watchers. The benefit to the industry is obvious: former government officials bring with them knowledge of the inner workings of policy making and key decision-makers. As the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3 increasingly prevents the tobacco industry from having a seat at the policy making table, employing former policy makers and other government officials to carry the industry message and gather intelligence is a useful alternative avenue for facilitating industry policy influence. In Germany, PhD chemist Frank Henkler-Stephanie worked for the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) for more than a decade.
The BfR is an agency within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture responsible for all scientific aspects of consumer protection. During his employment, Dr Henkler-Stephanie was involved in the authorisation of tobacco products, tobacco heaters, e-cigarettes and other nicotine products. From May 1st 2021 he will be a senior director for harm reduction at the German Association of the Tobacco Industry and New Products (BVTE). According to the association he will be responsible for risk reduction for innovative products. As part of this role, it is anticipated that he will contribute to advocating for BVTE’s interests to policy makers. Among the members of BVTE are British American Tobacco, Reemtsma and Japan Tobacco.
Germany’s Forum Rauchfrei expressed serious concern about the appointment, stating ‘Mr Henkler-Stephanie must surely know that from now on he will be the puppet of an association, the members of which are co-responsible for 120000 yearly deaths in Germany. With Mr. Henkler-Stephanie the BVTE has bought a lobbyist to make itself look like a legitimate stakeholder and to have a door-opener for administrative and political decision makers’.
Dr Henkler-Stephanie is not the first ‘door opener’ at BVTE. The organisation’s general manager, Jan Mücke, is the former parliamentary manager of the German Bundestag’s liberal party group, and until 2013 was the parliamentary state secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing. He is also general manager of the German Cigarette Association (DZV). In this function he succeeded Marianne Tritz, who is a former member of the German Bundestag for Germany’s Green Party Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen.