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Unique glimpse into the Dutch tobacco industry

Researchers at Maastricht University are preparing for a new scientific study on public documents about the Dutch tobacco industry.

This study, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, will analyse some 700 documents released last week by the University of California’s Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL) on the correspondence between the Dutch tobacco industry and the Dutch government from 2000 to 2011. Additional documents are expected to be published later this year from the period 1990 to 2000.

The documents were obtained from various Dutch ministries, including the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, and were released in 2011 following two detailed FOI requests submitted by research journalist Joop Bouma of the daily newspaper Trouw.

What makes this study so unique is that the documents were systematically digitised, indexed and added to the LTDL database by the Maastricht University Library at the request of Marc Willemsen, professor of Tobacco Control at the Department of Health Promotion and head of the STIVORO research department. The documents are now available to researchers worldwide and are searchable by author, organisation, document type and publication year.

Based on the LTDL input specifications, the initiators searched for the best way to store and share large amounts of data and create a good link between the Dutch correspondence and the LTDL. “By coupling this information to other LTDL documents, we have made the links between various lobby activities available on a global scale,” says Willemsen. Jessamina Lie of the Department of Health Promotion will conduct a scientific analysis of these documents. “Now that the documents have been indexed, the archive research can begin,” Willemsen explains. “Lie will analyse the documents per ministry and supplement her findings with interviews with relevant stakeholders, such as members of the Senate and the House, government officials and lobbyists.

This will give us a richer and more detailed picture of the communication between the tobacco industry and the Dutch government. This is important because the government is required to limit its communication with tobacco representatives in accordance with Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

The first scientific report is expected to be published in early 2015. The findings will be put into an international perspective in order to compare the tobacco industry in the Netherlands with those abroad.

The study will be subsidised by the Dutch Cancer Society.

Note for the press:
For more information on the content of this press release, please contact Prof. Marc Willemsen on +31 6 2505 6161 or email

The UM Marketing & Communications Department can be contacted on +31 43 388 5222 or at For urgent matters outside office hours, please call +31 6 4670 5574. Please refer to the Web Magazine for interesting research being carried out at UM and follow us on Twitter: @MaastrichtU.

Dunja Bajic | idw
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