Think tanks are non-governmental institutions – intellectually, organizationally and financially autonomous of government, political parties and organized interests – that are set up with the aim of influencing policy. The Swedish think tank Tobaksfakta, as a nonprofit organization, was formed by Health Professionals against Tobacco in October 2010, and has a number of member organizations. It is a national independent player focusing on measures to reduce tobacco use. The goal is that Tobaksfakta contributes continuously to reducing tobacco use toward a society free of tobacco.
A quality evaluation has been conducted by an external panel in five phases: (1) Planning and selection of approach, (2) Collection of data on Tobaksfakta, (3) Self-evaluations, (4) External assessment by a panel of independent experts, and (5) Measures and follow-up.
As background to the evaluation, there is a short review of what a think tank is. Then, the scene for tobacco prevention in Sweden is set by giving data on tobacco consumption, an overall Swedish map of tobacco prevention, and a presentation of some controversial issues. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control sets the global agenda and also the framework for the activities of Tobaksfakta.
A SWOT analysis provides an overall assessment of Tobaksfakta. Its strengths include competence, having an effective organization and member organizations, and being a strong provider of information and opinion leaders. Weaknesses include limited economic and human resources, low involvement in activities by member organizations, too broad a focus, and a limited impact on decision-making. Threats include poor economic resources, the perception that tobacco is no longer an issue, and weakness in national tobacco prevention efforts. Among the opportunities available is a new three-year business plan, strengthening of communicative work, networking and extended cooperation, the Tobacco End Game, and new efforts at national and international levels.
The evaluation considered organizational structure and resources, goal structure and work processes (monitoring, investigations, knowledge materials, website, press activities, twitter and social media, dissemination of knowledge, and European and international tobacco prevention work). The panel assessed the information and communication work of Tobaksfakta as of high quality, relevant, and timely.
The Tobacco Industry Project has functioned as an important vehicle for the overall efforts made by Tobaksfakta The project has performed impressive work in relation to relatively limited economic resources. Although time has run out for the project, the need for its activities will continue for so long as the activities pursued by the tobacco industry continue. Therefore, it is recommended that Tobaksfakta continues to act as a watchdog on the tobacco industry.
The Tobacco End Game is a challenging and future-oriented project that has a great potential. Tobaksfakta wants a Swedish government that, after the 2014 elections, reaches a decision on a plan to phase out smoking by 2025. The idea is that such a decision shall be achieved by advocacy at all levels of society. Further development of the Tobacco End Game is recommended as a key developmental effort.
Overall assessments and recommendations are: Tobaksfakta is a classic think tank but needs independent financing. It shall continue with intellectual argument not covert lobbying. Tobaksfakta is one of the key actors on the landscape of tobacco prevention. Focusing on structural issues gives added value. The think tank is an efficient and professional organization. Tobaksfakta has an international role to play.
Örebro: Örebro universitet , 2014. , 53 p.