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« Shock, horror, dismay, outrage | Main | Lessons in i-Upmanship »

Shock horror - tobacco industry lobbies government!!!

"Dirty tricks used by cigarette companies to derail UK health policies that could save the lives of thousands of Britons every year are laid bare in a report, The Smoke Filled Room, published by ASH today."

"Big Tobacco," ASH complains, "is currently concentrating its efforts on fighting bans on cigarette vending machines and point-of-sale displays in all shops."

Shock horror - tobacco industry lobbies government!!!

The report, published to coincide with World No Tobacco Day (May 31), claims that "Big Tobacco hoodwinked MPs into signing an Early Day Motion against point-of-sale displays by bombarding them with postcards purporting to be from worried shopkeepers ..."

Hoodwinked? Bombarding? Purporting to be from worried shopkeepers? Serious allegations. Here's what the Tobacco Retailers Alliance has to say in response:

ASH claim that the Tobacco Retailers Alliance is a ‘mere subsidiary’ of the TMA and a ‘front organisation’ for the tobacco industry, but fail to mention the Alliance’s 26,000 members, all of whom are independent retailers. The Tobacco Retailers Alliance is funded by the TMA, and offers free membership to independent retailers who sell tobacco products. The Tobacco Retailers Alliance is clear about its source of funding.

Ken Patel, national spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance and a newsagent from Leicester, said: “ASH have always been bullies but this report is stooping to a new low. I am an independent retailer and I campaign tirelessly to protect the business that I have spent half my life building. To suggest that we are a ‘front group’ for the tobacco industry is a disgraceful attack from a bunch of professional lobbyists who should know better.”

“ASH do not hesitate to target retailers and I think they consider independent shopkeepers more vulnerable to attacks, as we are less equipped to defend ourselves from baseless accusations. I have never worked for the tobacco industry, I am not paid by the tobacco industry, and contrary to what ASH might suggest I am quite capable of thinking for myself. Independent retailers are not stupid – we run successful small businesses after all. To suggest we are a front organisation is beyond insulting.”

The report alleges that many retailers’ MPs were unaware that the Save Our Shop campaign was the brainchild of the Tobacco Retailers Alliance and were ’outraged’ to find out. However, the campaign was launched in the House of Commons on 4th November at a reception hosted by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance with some 23 MPs in attendance, contradicting ASH’s claims.

Debbie Corris said: “This is typical of ASH – they want to discredit the masses of support retailers have from the public and in particular from our customers. How dare they?! As an independent business we are perfectly entitled to campaign against proposals like the display ban that would directly impact on our businesses.”

“I have to question whether it is appropriate for a so-called ‘charity’ that receives so much Government funding to discriminate against legitimate, hard-working businesses in this way.”

Needless to say Forest gets a mention in Appendix 2 where it lists so-called "front groups":

The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest). This smokers’ rights group is funded by UK based tobacco companies and has lobbied the EU Commission and UK government. While Forest portrays itself as the independent voice of smokers, Phillip Morris described the organisation as the tobacco industry’s “investment … into smoker mobilisation”.

Well, we've never hidden the fact that we get most of our money from tobacco companies, so nothing underhand or secretive about that. And why shouldn't we lobby the EU Commission and the UK government? It's a free country. (Well, I thought it was until I read this report.)

Independent voice of smokers? That's a matter of opinion, I guess, but, yeah, I do think Forest is independent. And here's some evidence: for three years (2002-2004) one tobacco company declined to donate to Forest because - in 2001 - I refused to drop our battle with Customs & Excise over the treatment of cross-Channel shoppers who were exercising their legal right to buy cheaper tobacco abroad and bring it into the UK for their own personal use.

Forest, I maintained at the time (and I haven't changed my opinion), represents the consumer not the tobacco industry. Defending an important point of principle cost us around £200k over three years and two members of staff were made redundant as a result. If that's not independent, what is?

As for Philip Morris, Forest hasn't received a penny from PM since 1997 and if I remember correctly (this was before my time) the sum donated to Forest by PM in 1997 was £20,000. Some "investment"!!

Anyway, here's our response to The Smoke Filled Room: How Big Tobacco Influences Health Policy in the UK:

NEWS RELEASE 31st May 2010


The smokers' lobby group Forest has dismissed as "hypocritical", “laughable” and “absurd” a report by the anti-smoking group ASH that highlights the alleged influence of big tobacco on health policy in the UK.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: "This is the most breathtakingly hypocritical report I have ever read. No-one has more influence on health policy in the UK than anti-smoking groups such as ASH.

"It's alright for the tobacco control movement to lobby ministers, manipulate public consultations and boast of having conducted a 'confidence trick' on politicians [1], but as soon as the tobacco industry and groups like Forest dare to lobby parliament or voice their opinion that is somehow unacceptable and underhand.

"The anti-smoking lobby is funded largely by public money. Groups such as Forest don't have the benefit of public handouts. Instead we invite donations from the private sector, notably tobacco companies which are the obvious source of funding for a group that represents tobacco consumers.

"There are millions of people in the UK who choose to smoke in full knowledge of the heath risks, and they have every right to be represented in the political process.

“The tobacco industry also has every right to defend the interests of those who sell and consume its products. In a free society anything else would be a travesty of justice.

"The tobacco control movement has a vision of a smoke free world in which theirs is the only voice that people are permitted to hear. Debate must be prohibited and all opposition silenced. Sounds pretty Orwellian to me.”

He added: “In the past decade the government has banned all tobacco advertising and sponsorship. Smoking is banned in all enclosed public places, and the previous government was planning to ban the display of tobacco in shops and prohibit cigarette vending machines. For ASH to complain about the influence of big tobacco on health policy is laughable and absurd.”

Note to editors:

[1] "It is essential that campaigners create the impression of inevitable success. Campaigning of this kind is literally a confidence trick: the appearance of confidence both creates confidence and demoralises the opposition." Smoke and Mirrors, article by Deborah Arnott and Ian Wilmore of ASH, 19 July 2006, Guardian

As for the rest of the report, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. You can download it from the ASH website HERE.

PS. Nice cover!

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (27)

Some information about the " Tobacco Free Initiative"

Global network
TFI collaborates closely with other WHO departments at all levels in cross-cluster initiatives to facilitate the integration of tobacco control into other health programmes (e.g. child and maternal health and tuberculosis). Outside WHO, TFI works with Member States, other international organizations and civil society through NGOs working on tobacco control.
United Nations Ad Hoc Interagency Task Force on Tobacco Control
The United Nations Ad Hoc Interagency Task Force on Tobacco Control was established by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1998 to coordinate the tobacco control work being carried out by different United Nations agencies. It is chaired by WHO and comprises 17 Agencies of the United Nations system and 2 organizations outside the UN system.

WHO Collaborating Centres
TFI is expanding its network of WHO Collaborating Centres. WHO Collaborating Centres are a network of national institutions designated by WHO that carry out activities in support of its international health work. TFI's Collaborating Centres work on research, training and advocacy. Working with national institutions is an effective way of increasing national capacity and paving the way for self-sustainable programmes at country level.


The Institute for Global Tobacco Control works to prevent death and disease from tobacco use through research, education and policy development. Established in 1998 in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Institute has a strong base in survey research. In 2008, the Institute moved to the Department of Health, Behaviour and Society under the leadership of Dr. David Holtgrave, Professor and Chair. With ongoing projects in more than 40 countries around the world, the Institute serves as a key international resource for the development of global tobacco control policies and interventions.

And even more:-

The Bloomberg Initiative (BI) Grants Program was started in 2006 to support projects that develop and deliver high-impact, evidence-based tobacco control interventions.
The BI Grants Program provides funding to government ministries and agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, and universities in more than 40 countries.


Question 2. Who has the authority and the power to compel compliance and respect for smoke-free air laws?
When we advocate for the enactment of laws, the federal, parliamentary, municipal, or local authorities who have the power to propose and enact them are our target audience.

But when we advocate for the enforcement of laws, our target shifts to a different set of authorities –national, state, and local government officials and private individuals (the owners, operators,and managers of private businesses). These target audiences may well differ from law to law and from country to country. We must know exactly who has the power to enforce each law because these individuals are now the primary targets of our advocacy efforts. And we must identify those private authorities, such as employers and managers of privately owned and
operated public places, who have the power to enforce smoke-free rules.

Enough information just now but in ending just remember this:-


May 31, 2010 at 0:29 | Unregistered CommenterEddie D

Excellent riposte Simon!

May 31, 2010 at 1:00 | Unregistered CommenterChris F J Cyrnik

It is odd that ASH is claiming that the TRA (Tobac Ret Assn) is just an offshoot of 'Big Tobacco'. ASH must surely know that this is an organisation with 26,000 individual members. The protestations of ASH merely show what an amateurish organisation it is.

Perhaps 'Big Tobacco' is right to 'hold fire' for the time being - let the hysteria run its course. Let ASH, the WHO, etc bluster. Let them antagonise more and more people throughout the world. Inevitably, there will be a backlash - not because of any denial of smoking harm (whether it is true or not), but because the further ASH, WHO ETC extend their tentacles, the more people that they antagonise.

At the moment, we pubgoers are taking the brunt of the attack, but soon it will be the TRA and then it will be drivers, and then it will be home-owners.

It behoves us people who enjoy tobacco to be patient. Fight our corner all the way, but be patient. Maybe to link up with anyone else who is being bullied and attacked by special interest groups (although I know that this is already happening). Let ASH pronounce. Do not argue about the nitty-gritty of their claims - just laugh at them. In the sense that, "So ASH claim that 26,000 small tobacco retailers are in the pay of Big Tobacco, Eh?! How much are they being paid by Big Tobacco, Eh? Come on, ASH, give us your evidence!" Keep plugging away and make them squirm. Ridicule them by pointing out their non-sequiturs. Ask about their costs and who is paying. Keep on asking. Make these points to MPs and keep making them.

May 31, 2010 at 2:35 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Hmm. Seems to be a gremlin in the reference code.

I'll just pop it down here instead.

May 31, 2010 at 8:16 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

There seems to have been a change somewhere along the line. In the past this would have been headline news. I watched the BBC news for a while this a.m. and nothing about it it or World No Tobacco Day (maybe later?)

Simon sums it up as absurd, and DP excpands on this. The 'report' is so over the top it loses credibility.


May 31, 2010 at 8:58 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

The haemetically sealed world of ASH as written by Martin Dockrell of ASH in an email to a member of Freedom2Choose in June 2009.

"We tend to mix with people who broadly share our background and point of view so we can often be quite surprised when we are told that we are out of step. As far as I know, none of my friends support capital punishment although I am told that most people in Britain do."

Turkies are lobbying for more Christmases, Spurs want Harringey council to spend more money on Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, and MPs have voted to end expenses. ASH are doing the PR of course.

May 31, 2010 at 9:05 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

So, Appendix 1 refers to ""The Front Men, Moles & Advocates"!!

Mysteriously, it failed to mention the Patsies - the usually not-very-bright but immensely self-important (and expendable) agents for change who are manipulated by their masters into advancing an agenda whose real purpose is somewhat different from the one they've been sold.

And the Health Lobby is riddled with them.

Why, some are even given knighthoods for their pains........................................

May 31, 2010 at 10:06 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

What is vitally needed is an INDEPENDENT (se Human Rights Act) full assessment of both the BENEFITS of smoking and the claimed harmful effects. End the propoganda, let us have genuine facts.
Even then we have a right to choose, just as we have a right to use our roads, although I think more deaths and injuries are caused on the roads. There are restrictions of course but if we obey and respect those restrictions we can still use the roads as 99.9% of the people do.

May 31, 2010 at 10:27 | Unregistered CommenterRoy Fox

Surely we all know the saying - "You've got to be noticed to be abused but the most important thing is to be noticed".
Using this as a probable truth we must conclude that ASH and their anti-SMOKING friends are the real frontmen/women for Big Tobacco!

-It is they who have ensured our TV screens are so often assaulted by anti-SMOKING adverts.
-It was they who wanted to end the selling of single cigarettes, packets of 5 and now 10 packs thus ensuring we wake in the morning with some ciggies left and, as is quite logical, start smoking earlier in the day.
-It is they who also discourage smoking reduction and personal control of smoking through the banning of smaller packets.
-It is they who remove smoking from adult environments and promote it by ensuring all passing youngsters see active smoking (and the associated social pleasure and camaraderie).
-It is they who claim 'there is no safe level of smoking' thus discouraging individuals from reducing their smoking. There is no safe level of any human activity but that logic must be ignored.
-It is they who refuse to allow 'safer' cigarettes simply because they want to eliminate all smoking rather than encourage reduced smoking as an middle way or initial step to an individuals decision to stop completely. It is also in their movement's interest to promote their own brand of nicotine!!!!
-It is they who promote ineffective measures for smoking cessation thus generating failure and boosting the impression of addiction. There are recognised cessation 'clinics' that are far more successful and far less expensive than the NHS.
-It is they who promote NRT to young people but an unintended consequence of this is a greater thrill from nicotine as they enjoy the double buzz of smoking and NRT together.
- It is they who act in a most irresponsible manner when history, logic and plain commonsense show that smoking rates are gradually reducing through education not regulation and demonisation.
---and I'm sure there's more we could all add........................

Must we assume that the Governments only listen to fools and the real promoters of nicotine reliance!!!!!!!!

May 31, 2010 at 11:28 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I'm curious, Simon - why have you mentioned government as their major funding source, but have neglected to mention that their other major source of funds is the pharmaceutical industry?

May 31, 2010 at 11:38 | Unregistered CommenterAno

Simon If I was British as well as Journalist I couldn't write better than you and more clearly....
Just a question is common sense still exist???? or are people to busy in their own little life that they do not how to make difference between lies and true???

May 31, 2010 at 12:17 | Unregistered CommenterFrederique Dupont

'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.'


May 31, 2010 at 12:41 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

"Patsies - the usually not-very-bright but immensely self-important (and expendable) agents for change who are manipulated by their masters into advancing an agenda whose real purpose is somewhat different from the one they've been sold."

Hey Martin V - I am a Patsy but not one of them!

I'm still high on the news I just read over at Puddlecote's place that the display ban is to be abandoned. Oh, I do so hope that the persecution has finally ended and ASH is seen for what it is. A self interest group whose sole purpose is to maintain it's own funding and staff jobs.

Yes, agreed, a good response Simon, full of common sense. Now when is that amendment coming from our new so called saviours in the ConDem party?

May 31, 2010 at 14:32 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Well said Chris!

When one looks at ASH's tactics it does seem bizarre that they are actually an ANTI-smoking group. I remember going into Central Birmingham about a year ago (I don't go out so much since the Ban) and was amazed that the place seemed full of smokers! Outside every office building, outside every bar; people cramming a fag in as they moved from one bar to another... It seemed like almost everyone was smoking. And this was the result of their denormalisation campaign?! Prior to the ban, if a child came from a non-smoking family then they would probably barely ever see a smoker. Now they see them everywhere! Idiots.

And what better way to encourage those who want to give up smoking than reminding them about it every ad break and sticking signs everywhere so you can never, not once, put it out of your mind.

If anything shows what a bunch of deluded misfits these people are it is their basic lack of understanding of normal human psychology. Unless you accept that keeping smoking and tobacco at the forefront of everyone's minds is exactly what their Big Pharma paymasters need to make profts on smoking cessation products of course, in which case all the PR and advertising suddenly makes sense. I hope the politicians continue to wake up and see these parasites for what they are - a lobby group for the pharmaceutical industry; useful idiots whose hatred and bitterness is utilised by Big Pharma to make them money.

May 31, 2010 at 18:18 | Unregistered CommenterMrA

Can I also add that having read most of their studies in their original form it is obvious that they are just junk science. This has also had the effect of my starting to wonder if anything that has ever some from tobacco control is true. Is even active smoking harmful? Ten years ago I would have scoffed at the idea - after all, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, right? But now I see that I am healthier tham nost of my age group, that all those who are now dying in my parents' age group are non-smokers whilst the smokers reach their 80s and beyond; that cancer rates, taken nationally, show no difference between non-smokers and smokers; some countries with lots of smokers have lower cancer rates than us; that some "smoking related" diseases are now clearly not caused by smoking (remember how cervical cancer was "smoking related" until the human papilloma virus was discovered?).....

Whether tobacco control ever told the truth I do not know. But their twisting of science has led me to doubt anything they ever say. If Tobacco Control was ever a force for good back in the 50s or 60s I do not know - but if they were, those anti-smoking pioneers must be full of hatred for the likes of ASH now, for if they ever told the truth their message has been diluted and obscured by the lies of their descendants.

More good work from our friends at ASH.

May 31, 2010 at 18:28 | Unregistered CommenterMrA


The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrolling across the nation has nothing to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of "second-hand" smoke.

Indeed, the bans are symptoms of a far more grievous threat, a cancer that has been spreading for decades and has now metastasized throughout the body politic, spreading even to the tiniest organs of local government. This cancer is the only real hazard involved – the cancer of unlimited government power.

The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger or is in fact a phantom menace, as a study published recently in the British Medical Journal indicates. The issue is: If it were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and allowing them to make their own decisions, or should they seize the power of government and force people to make the "right" decision?

Supporters of local tobacco bans have made their choice. Rather than trying to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the bans are the unwanted intrusion.

Loudly billed as measures that only affect "public places," they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops and offices – places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don't like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers in places where their effect on others is negligible, such as outdoor public parks.

The decision to smoke, or to avoid "second-hand" smoke, is a question to be answered by each individual based on his own values and his own assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives: how much to spend or invest, whom to befriend or sleep with, whether to go to college or get a job, whether to get married or divorced, and so on.

All of these decisions involve risks; some have demonstrably harmful consequences; most are controversial and invite disapproval from the neighbours. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. He must be free because his life belongs to him, not to his neighbours, and only his own judgment can guide him through it.

Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. Smokers are a numerical minority, practising a habit considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behaviour.

That is why these bans are far more threatening than the prospect of inhaling a few stray whiffs of tobacco while waiting for a table at your favourite restaurant. The anti-tobacco crusaders point in exaggerated alarm at those wisps of smoke while they unleash the unlimited intrusion of government into our lives. We do not elect officials to control and manipulate our behaviour.

Thomas Laprade,
480 Rupert St.

Thunder Bay, Ont.

May 31, 2010 at 19:18 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Laprade

Mr A
Sometimes I think I'm the only sane person in this world so - thank you for your comment.
I recently underwent major surgery for a condition that smoking, amongst other things, can agravate. I was offered NRT but had to suggest that the 'activist' should look a little further into my condition. - - Nicotine from cigarettes OR from their friendly pharmaceutical company is my problem.
I gave up smoking on the word of my surgeon. an active medical professional who has no anti-smoking axe to grind.
I don't miss the nicotine but I do miss the smoke and the action of smoking so I currently enjoy a 'zero hero' no nicotine ecigarette. It saves me the effort of chasing every garden bonfire in the village! Obviously the ecigarette must be discouraged sayeth he rightious 'cos their paymasters don't make them.
It works for me.

May 31, 2010 at 20:40 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Im tobacco controls worse enemy and they know it.......................go get em big tobacco........for once the free peoples are on your side.Weve all had enuf nanny nazi laws and regulations.

May 31, 2010 at 20:48 | Unregistered Commenterharleyrider1978

Pat -

YOU are NO patsy - that's for sure !

(Apologies to all Patricias - but I didn't choose the name).

May 31, 2010 at 23:10 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

<p>Isn't it about time that Forest released a big glossy report detailing the tricks and underhand and sinister tactics that are employed by ASH and the BMA to control our lifestyles and undervalue our very freedoms for what is essentially government money throught the media of fear and loathing.</p>

<p>Using the same tactics of a socilaist government of 13 years to achieve control and therefore high levels of income through a concentrated and pernicious persecution of a quiet inoffensive third of the population.</p>

<p> Labour used it an excuse to tax, ASH and the BMA used it as a source of income - but it cannot be ignored that it is a persecution and removal of freedom and liberty.</p>

June 1, 2010 at 6:46 | Unregistered CommenterSirComeSpect

Clearly some html tags don't work on here - you can tell this is my first post

June 1, 2010 at 6:47 | Unregistered CommenterSirComeSpect

"Why, some are even given knighthoods for their pains....."

Or ennobled like Scotland's saviour from the smoke, Jack McCon-all.

When's Stewart Maxwell getting his gong?

June 1, 2010 at 16:53 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph K

Has ASH been persuaded to withdraw their statement? It isn't available on their website anymore.

June 2, 2010 at 15:57 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Williams

"Has ASH been persuaded to withdraw their statement? It isn't available on their website anymore...."

Tsk, pity its all over the internet now, maybe they smoked it?

(outside an enclosed "public" space of course, wouldn't wan't to be breaking the law would they...)

June 2, 2010 at 20:32 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph K

a massive petition by the 15 million or more smokers and friends made possible by the tobacco trade inserting individual petition forms in side cigarette packets like the gift tokens of old gathered together in pubs ,clubs ,etc and a sent to any orginisation willing to take part in such a scheme to then be presented to our masters en masse demanding change to the ban
it has been done for the plastic bag petition,so why can it not be done for changing the ban
maybe ASH will claim such petitions are not allowed in this FREE country of ours
please give the idea some thought as even the threat of such a petition woulkd shake our betters

June 3, 2010 at 14:47 | Unregistered CommenterLaird James of Kincavel

The above sounds like an impishly good idea.

And it would CERTAINLY piss ASH off.................................

June 4, 2010 at 22:00 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Great Idea to put individual petition forms inside packets.

June 14, 2010 at 16:16 | Unregistered Commenterkj

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