Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes?

Martin Dockrell of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) looks at the Conservative party's links to the tobacco industry, and the tobacco industry's false claims.

By Martin Dockrell of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

When he was still leader of the opposition David Cameron said:

“I believe that secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics; it arouses people’s worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works.”

His government’s tobacco control plan (pdf), published in March, promises to protect health policy from tobacco industry lobbying. They even plan to make respondents to health consultations declare any links with the tobacco industry, financial or otherwise.

This makes sense when you consider that much of the pro-tobacco lobbying – ostensibly from retailers, publicans and smokers – has been bankrolled by tobacco manufacturers.

The problem with hidden lobbying is just that, it is hidden. On April 27th the Guardian ran the headline:

“BAT denies allegations that it funded anti-tobacco ban lobby.”

The very next day they ran the story:

“BAT admits bankrolling newsagents’ tobacco campaign”

And that only scratches the surface. Tobacconomics, a new report from ASH, shows how the industry generates dodgy data and then recycles it through a lobby laundry process to remove the whiff of Big Tobacco.

We have grown used to an industry that misleads politicians and the public but this is one that will even mislead its own shareholders. At their AGM in Bristol Imperial executives were asked what impact Ireland’s tobacco display ban had on tobacco duty revenue.

Three times they were asked; three times the answer came back “a fall of half a billion pounds”.

But this is a matter of public record. Figures from the Irish government show that in 2009 there was an increase in revenue of €50 million in the six months following the ban as in the six months before.

Duty-paid-cigarette-clearances-in-Ireland-2009
Premises-in-England-and-Wales-with-a-license-for-both-on-and-off-salesAnd have you heard the claim that 50 English pubs have closed every week since the smoking ban? Well there is no official definition of a pub but the number of licenses to sell alcohol both on and off the premises (so excluding restaurants and shops) increased 5% that year and has increased every year since.

In the word’s of the BBC’s Mark Easton:

“Pubs aren’t dying – they are evolving.”

Industry watcher, Professor Anna Gilmore explains how it works:

“Industry funded analysts produce unbalanced and misleading reports, these get recycled by lobbyists and front groups and in due course crop up in the speeches of industry friendly politicians.

“Thus essentially bogus claims become accepted as ‘fact’.”

Let’s look at Philip Davies’s claim that when Canada banned tobacco displays “there was a rise in teenage smoking as a result of the ban”. It all started when Japan Tobacco International (owners of the Silk Cut brand) commissioned consultants “Europe Economics” to provide “expert economic analysis”.

Their findings were quickly recycled by Patrick Basham and published by the Institute for Economic Affairs, thus obscuring the tobacco industry link (although Basham, is adjunct scholar at the tobacco funded Cato Institute). The “factoid” was peddled furiously by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (the group at the centre of the Guardian’s exposé above).

And what does the data say? Well Canadian provinces introduced display bans over a period of several years and it is difficult to link cause and effect, but over all that time there was not a single year when Canadian teen smoking increased and indeed, over the period, it fell by more than a third.

Current-smoking-prevalence-15-19-year-olds-Canada-2001-2009
Last year’s Australian election was marked by a $5 million television campaign attacking the Labour government’s plan to put cigarettes in plain packaging. Research shows plain packs would be less attractive to young people, less misleading to smokers and increase the impact of health warnings.

The ads purported to be from “tobacco retailers” fearing economic ruin, but turned out to be funded by the industry.

Andrew Lansley plans to consult on a similar law for the UK. Internal industry documents reveal manufactures do not “want to see plain packaging introduced anywhere regardless of the size and importance of the market however small”.

One thing is for sure, the industry will be lobbying more ferociously than ever before.

30 Responses to “Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes?”

  1. Jack Seale

    Outstanding Big Tobacco facterama //bit.ly/m1piDC by Martin Dockrell of //www.ash.org.uk

  2. Andrew Crory

    Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? //bit.ly/m1piDC by Martin Dockrell of //www.ash.org.uk/

  3. Left Off

    I wonder when the FOREST/FREEDOM2CHOOSE front groups will sink their fangs in to this?

  4. Nick Cotter

    Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? //j.mp/ilTwJr (via Instapaper)

  5. Jonathan Bagley

    I have two comments.
    Firstly, an increase in tobacco duty revenue in the six months following the display ban surely means the display ban was not successful at reducing consumption – unless the ban coincided with a large increase in the amount of duty charged per pack? Are you arguing that display bans result in an increase in consumption ?
    Second, I read the piece by Mark Easton. The data he presents shows increases in licenses for every category except on and off sales from clubs – I don’t know how they are defined, but I can’t see there being many to begin with. I’m not disputing these figures, but they don’t fit in with most people’s experience of large numbers of pub closures and no new pub openings. I always assumed that the claimed increase in licenses by anti tobacco campaigners was due to small bistros and cafes opening up – not the sort of places to drop in for a pint and a chat, but you are claiming the increase is in genuine pub licenses? Where then do the pub trade associations get their figure of 7000 pub closures from? These people are not in the pay of the tobacco companies. Many of them agree with the smoking ban and don’t attribute the 7000 closures to it, but are never-the-less exremely concerned about the decline of the pub trade. If the number of genuine pubs is actually increasing, they would surely have no such concern?
    Finally, Anna Gilmore doesn’t work in business or finance. She is best known for publishing papers claiming that the smoking ban caused an instant fall in the rate of heart attacks.

  6. Clive Burgess

    Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? //bit.ly/m1piDC by Martin Dockrell of //www.ash.org.uk/

  7. Powerbase

    Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? | Left Foot Forward //ow.ly/5eTfp

  8. Spinwatch

    Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? | Left Foot Forward //ow.ly/5eThL

  9. Viki Johnson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? //t.co/5Zm2PAx

  10. Jonathan Bagley

    Further to my comment above. Comparing your figures with Easton’s article, it seems that what you describe as “premises such as pubs”, includes pubs which have now been reclassified as restaurants because most of their customers are diners and they are not the sort of place where you can stand at the bar and drink. Presumably they maintain their off-licences. This would partially explain how each side of the dispute gets its figures. It still doesn’t explain away the indisputable fact that in every town there are boarded up pubs, and pubs converted to housing, yet no new genuine pubs are opening. And there is a large discrepancy between the British Pub Association figure of 51000 pubs in 2007 and your figure of 78000 “premises such as pubs”. What exactly are these 27000 places and where do these figures come from?

  11. Luke Place

    Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? //bit.ly/m1piDC by Martin Dockrell of //www.ash.org.uk/

  12. Pucci Dellanno

    Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? //bit.ly/m1piDC by Martin Dockrell of //www.ash.org.uk/

  13. Gregster

    Left Off: Not much need really. They’re publishing a report which exhibits exactly the selective reporting they are accusing the tobacco industry of.

    The sad part of all of this is that your average politician has two sides pumping out total nonsense. And that is to the detriment of everybody.

    Made for a nice easy article for you though, didn’t it?

  14. Pete Robinson

    Pot, kettle, black. ASH believes you really can fool all of the people all of the time. And to be fair they have been getting away with it for a long time. They’re very good at what they do.

    Their tactic is to cherry-pick the odd statistic before presenting an illusion of what’s happening as if it were the truth. Repeat the lie often enough and it becomes embedded in the public psyche as fact.

    In this case they are quoting from Nu-Labour’s DCMS Statistical Bulletin (Alcohol, Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment Licensing, England and Wales) April 2007 – March 2008.

    Yes, you’ve already noticed the figures begin three months BEFORE the smoking ban even started. On the surface they do appear to show a 5% increase in premises licences issued. However the stats are only ‘modeled estimates’, i.e. fabricated, because the data was incomplete and further confused by merging local authorities together with the ‘hangover’ at that time from the new Licencing Act.

    Business failures and closed pubs don’t even appear in those figures. Neither does the dramatic fall in industry turnover, or the large numbers of pubs fighting tooth and nail for survival.

    The document itself warns of “a degree of uncertainty” with these estimates, and they should only be used as a general guide. Of course ASH declines to mention any of this, or the fact that in the following year licences issued showed a marked decline, alongside club licences.

    ASH also neglects to mention that “Industry watcher”, Professor Anna Gilmore, has been a Board & Council member of ASH since 2002. No bias there then.

  15. ToryBater

    You say the so called publican lobby is not funded by the tobacco industry but the “Save our pubs Campaign” most certainly is, specifically by Japan Tobacco and supported by FOREST, itself funded by the Tobacco Manufactures Association,

    As for the display ban in Ireland not resulting in a reduction in smoking rate, surely it would take time for that kind of measure to have an effect? People wouldn’t suddenly forget to smoke but the purpose of the displays is surely to increase sales and win new customers. Over time, with that kind of advertising removed customer behaviour would gradually change.

  16. ToryBater

    @Jonathan. I’ve just re-read this and checked the links. Tell me
    1) Did Irish tobacco duty fall by 50% as Imperial claim or increase by €50 million?
    2) Is the guy not right. THe number of on and off sales licenses increases from 77,000 to almost 81,000
    3) Philip Davies and Japan Tobacco say Canadian teen smoking went up. What year would that be?

  17. Dave Atherton

    Where do we start with such rubbish. First of all Freedom2Choose do not or have not ever received, payments, remuneration, or grace and favour from tobacco companies or its affiliates. Any other opinion is a smear and is libelous. I am an Executive of F2C.

    Secondly, the display bans in Canada did not come in until 2006/7 and as you can see from ASH’s own graph it hardly made a scrap of difference, most reductions came pre ban.

    Thirdly if you would care to read in my link the British Beer and Pub Association’s closures from my blog you will see that between 1980 and 2006 pubs closed at a rate of 0.6504% a year and post ban rose to 2.775% a four fold (4X)increase. Four years before the ban for example 1,200 pubs closed, post ban 4,791 four years after. Dockrell must think the British public are fools.

    //daveatherton.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/british-pub-closures-1980-2010/

    //spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?hl=en&key=tqzVGoN1smPiztMp-mp0ckg&hl=en#gid=0

  18. Dave Atherton

    If Left Foot Forward readers want to read about big corporations bleeding the taxpayer dry look no further than the World Health Organization (WH0), big pharmaceutical companies and ..er…ASH.

    Exhibit 1 the announcement in 1998 of the WHO teaming up with pharmaceutical companies to increase their profits. (1) “WHO LAUNCHES PARTNERSHIP WITH THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY TO HELP SMOKERS QUIT.” Yes that is an WHO URL at the bottom.

    Exhibit 2 ASH. Mr. Dockrell does ASH still own shares in Glaxo SmithKline? (2) “ASH has a small shareholding in GSK…..We have worked with GSK under the auspices of the WHO-Europe Partnership Project on tobacco dependence and at various one-off opportunities. ASH was instrumental in securing greater government commitment to smoking cessation products in the NHS National Plan and we have helped with PR for both Zyban and Niquitin CQ.”

    Exhibit 3 ASH’s take on Pfizer’s stop smoking drug varenicline branded as Chantix/Champix. (3)

    “7. It looks to be an effective and welcome addition to our range of medications to help smokers stop.”

    What has been the long term effects on users? (4)

    “Hundreds of reports of suicides, psychotic reactions and other serious problems tied to the popular stop-smoking drug Chantix were left out of a crucial government safety review because Pfizer Inc., the drug’s manufacturer, submitted years of data through “improper channels.”

    “Some 150 suicides — more than doubling those previously known — were among 589 delayed reports of severe issues turned up in a new analysis by the non-profit Institute for Safe Medication Practices.”

    “We’ve had a major breakdown in safety surveillance,” said Thomas J. Moore, the ISMP senior scientist who analyzed the data. The serious problems — including reports of completed suicides, suicide attempts, aggression and hostility and depression — had been mixed among some 26,000 records of non-serious side effects such as nausea and rashes, with some dating back to 2006, the year Chantix, or varenicline, was approved.
    They echo previous claims that the drug can induce extreme reactions in people trying to quit cigarettes, including vivid nightmares, crippling depression and sudden, violent outbursts.”

    Mr. Dockrell are ASH still recommending this big pharma product?

    1. //www.who.int/inf-pr-1999/en/pr99-04.html

    2. //www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_635.pdf

    3. //www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_447.pdf

    4. //www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43187290/ns/health-health_care/

  19. Chris Snowdon

    I see that this blog has got rid of its ‘evidence based blogging’ tag-line. Not a moment too soon if this is the kind of thing you’re publishing. So many discrepancies in this article, but to take just three…

    There’s no definition of a pub, says Dockrell. Well, perhaps not, but I think we all know one when we see one. I assume the British Beer and Pub Association know what a pub is, however, and their figures show an unprecedented decline in pub numbers since 2007. //bit.ly/aM3x7v This should hardly need mentioning. The collapse of the pub trade has been a big news story in recent years. We can argue about the cause of that, but only ASH deny it is happening at all.

    On Canada, Dockrell says it’s hard to see what’s happening because provinces brought their bans in at different times. It’s certainly hard to see what’s going on from his graph, but the Canadian government actually publishes smoking prevalence figures for each province and these show that in nearly every case a general downward trend in youth smoking was stalled or reversed when display bans came in. The national decline was driven by the more populous provinces (Quebec, Ontario) which didn’t have display bans. (See p. 29-31 //bit.ly/iVPDeJ) This doesn’t mean that display bans encourage teen smoking- although there are arguments that they might – but it certainly doesn’t show that they don’t effectively discourage it.

    As for this: “Figures from the Irish government show that in 2009 there was an increase in revenue [from cigarette sales] of €50 million in the six months following the ban as in the six months before.”

    I have read and re-read this, but I cannot for the life of me understand how Dockrell thinks this is an argument in his favour. I can only assume he was so excited by the idea of BAT misleading its shareholders that he forgot to pretend that display bans reduce cigarette sales.

    Oh, and tobacco retailers are, by definition, part of the tobacco industry. For the record, I’m not and never have been.

  20. Daniel Pitt

    Big Tobacco is blowing smoke in Cameron's eyes //t.co/EfUQ79p #ConDemNation

  21. Marlene Bakken

    Chalk up another death to big pharma! //www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2011/06/10/vt_man_who_killed_mother_affected_by_drug/?comments=all No one ever killed anyone, including by the second hand smoke scam, using tobacco. W. Kip Viscusi, an economist and professor at Harvard Law School wrote: In the late 1990s more than 40 state attorneys general sued the major tobacco companies for the excessive medical costs imposed on the states by smoking. In November 1998 this litigation was concluded with the companies agreeing to pay approximately $9 billion a year, to be adjusted for inflation, in damages and lawyers’ fees. The deal was incredibly corrupt; had it been made in any other industry it would surely have been declared illegal. The trial lawyers, the politicians, and even the public health officials and antismoking advocates who believed that any means were appropriate to achieve their desired ends of massive fees, political victories, and higher cigarette prices were the ones who most abused the system.”
    The gov’t is complicit. Pharma can’t be sued for their deadly drugs.
    Little known fact: Johnson & Johnson controls a “non-profit” who sends lobbyists as fellows free of charge to gov’t officials to “work” for them, when in essence they are there to influence them to benefit Pharma. The RWJF, Johnson & Johnson’s tax exempt “non-profit” that owns hundreds of millions of shares of J&J, has a lot of fellows in Washington. Even Michele Obama has one working with her, thus the “war on obesity”. Once again, pharma has the market cornered on the “treatment”. WE THE PEOPLE need to take control back from these huge corporate entities! Now, I was under the assumption that bribery was illegal! Bribery: “The offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties.” These research grants are just that. As always, who benefits? The Medical-Industrial complex. If a state has two million people with 20% smokers, that’s 400,000, and you make them miserable and get perhaps half of them to try and quit, that’s 200,000 buying nicoderm or nicoret at about $200 a try, that’s $40,000,000.00!
    One only has to look at the campaign against healthy raw milk vs. pasteurization which kills all health benefits, or the global warming scam called ClimateGate. All are based on Junk Science, yet still quoted by many as valid research. Unfortunately, too much money is always at stake and it’s the citizens that lose every time!

  22. Dave Atherton

    I have previously posted this but because of the URLs needs moderating. I think this needs a wider audience.

    If Left Foot Forward readers want to read about big corporations bleeding the taxpayer dry look no further than the World Health Organization (WH0), big pharmaceutical companies and ..er…ASH.

    Exhibit 1 the announcement in 1998 of the WHO teaming up with pharmaceutical companies to increase their profits. (1) “WHO LAUNCHES PARTNERSHIP WITH THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY TO HELP SMOKERS QUIT.” Yes that is an WHO URL at the bottom.

    Exhibit 2 ASH. Mr. Dockrell does ASH still own shares in Glaxo SmithKline? (2) “ASH has a small shareholding in GSK…..We have worked with GSK under the auspices of the WHO-Europe Partnership Project on tobacco dependence and at various one-off opportunities. ASH was instrumental in securing greater government commitment to smoking cessation products in the NHS National Plan and we have helped with PR for both Zyban and Niquitin CQ.”

    Exhibit 3 ASH’s take on Pfizer’s stop smoking drug varenicline branded as Chantix/Champix. (3)

    “7. It looks to be an effective and welcome addition to our range of medications to help smokers stop.”
    What has been the long term effects on users? (4)

    “Hundreds of reports of suicides, psychotic reactions and other serious problems tied to the popular stop-smoking drug Chantix were left out of a crucial government safety review because Pfizer Inc., the drug’s manufacturer, submitted years of data through “improper channels.”
    “Some 150 suicides — more than doubling those previously known — were among 589 delayed reports of severe issues turned up in a new analysis by the non-profit Institute for Safe Medication Practices.”
    “We’ve had a major breakdown in safety surveillance,” said Thomas J. Moore, the ISMP senior scientist who analyzed the data. The serious problems — including reports of completed suicides, suicide attempts, aggression and hostility and depression — had been mixed among some 26,000 records of non-serious side effects such as nausea and rashes, with some dating back to 2006, the year Chantix, or varenicline, was approved.
    They echo previous claims that the drug can induce extreme reactions in people trying to quit cigarettes, including vivid nightmares, crippling depression and sudden, violent outbursts.”

    Mr. Dockrell are ASH still recommending this big pharma product?

  23. Left Off

    Welcome to the tobacco astroturfers: Dave Atherton (Used to call himself Dr Dave but of course he invented the doctorate), and Chris Snowden of course who are old favourites. Thanks Dave for giving us the “Health profession recommend medicine” shock exclusive, now go lie down in a darkened room you demented tory.

    But let’s give a special LFF welcome to – all the way from Wisconsin – Tea Party activist… Marlene Bakken!

  24. Left Off

    Check this out from bonkers bakken. Tea Party accuses Surgeon General of distorting science. Yep. That’s right.

    If I wanted a ballenced opinion of the latest medical evidence I would go the tea party rather than America’s top doctor any time. No competition.

    //www.teapartypatriots.org/GroupNewsDetail/9ceefaf1-9d9d-43ae-b1a1-be90b171650c/812826ad-e55d-41e0-be04-b253029cc9e4/Surgeon%20General%E2%80%99s%20Office%20Again%20Misrepresents%20and%20Distorts%20the%20Science%20in%20Report%20Press%20Release;

  25. Dave Atherton

    I see Left off has the guts to real his/her real name. Coward.

  26. John Gray

    Yes, it really is time that trendy lefties and so many politicians stopped listening to ASH and the rest of the tobacco control money making machine. It’s not clever to do so because if you were far better informed you’d realise what fools you are making of yourselves. If the tobacco industry are considered corrupt then ASH and tobacco control are every bit as bad if not worse. ASH are mendacious and untrustworthy as they support and produce of of the most fantastic claims possible in their great holy crusade. The corruption of science for political goals should not be tolerated under any circumstances, yet that is what tobacco control does on a regular basis on the immoral pretext that the end justifies the means.

  27. Michael J. McFadden

    Hello LeftOff. I’m just a bit curious as to what your definition of “tobacco astroturfer” is. People who oppose bans openly using their real and verifiable identities so their tobacco connections or lack thereof can be determined? I guess in such a case I’d qualify as well, although I’d still like to hear your exact definition.

    Chris Snowdon, you said, “The collapse of the pub trade has been a big news story in recent years. We can argue about the cause of that, but only ASH deny it is happening at all.”

    Very true. And isn’t that the same ASH that denies that increasing taxes on cigarettes has no effect on the black market smuggling of them? I think your ASH over there is just as nutso as our ASH over here.

    Re Displays: I have a scathingly brilliant idea! Let’s contact the “Save The Trees” campaign to rev up a No Newspaper Display law! Stores can still sell them in brown bags from under the counter if customers ask for them by name of course, but innocents won’t be enticed by lurid headlines and such things. And people are always free to get their news on the radio, or on the net, or at the barbershop, or even while standing around outside their favorite closed pub!

    Great idea, eh?

    Michael J. McFadden,
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  28. Michael J. McFadden

    Mis-typed a sentence there. It SHOULD say, “And isn’t that the same ASH that claims that increasing taxes on cigarettes has no effect on the black market smuggling of them?” The claim is so totally off the wall that it’s hard to even type it correctly!

    – MJM

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