Cameron’s friends in big business hold back progress on public health

Despite public support and the medical evidence that plain packaging would save lives, David Cameron has put the interest of his chums in big business above British public health.

By shadow health minister Diane Abbott

Smoking is a killer. It is still the major preventable cause of death and disability. And it is the biggest cause of health inequality. Poor people suffer most.

We know that plain packaging is in important tool in bringing down levels of smoking. It is particularly helpful in discouraging smokers. Some thought that Cameron’s government wanted to bring in plain packaging. As late as April, the Tory Public Health minister, Anna Soubry said that she was convinced plain packaging should be introduced.

Ireland is now rightly pressing ahead with plans to force tobacco manufacturers to use standardised packaging.

Yet a few weeks ago the Sun’s well connected political editor Tom Newton Dunn reported that David Cameron had scrapped plans to force all cigarettes to be sold in plain packs:

“Mr Cameron has now ordered the proposed law to be pulled from next week’s Queen’s Speech. A Whitehall source said: ‘Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it’s nothing to do with the government’s key purpose. The PM is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters’ essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform.'”

Yet again, this exposes real weakness from David Cameron, and it’s yet another humiliating public health car crash.

The hand of Lynton Crosby

The Sun did not identify its source, but the quote bears the hallmarks of the Conservative Party ‘strategist’ Lynton Crosby. In Australia, while Lynton Crosby was federal director of the Liberal Party, the party accepted major donations from the tobacco industry.

Between 2000 and 2010 the Party received $AUS 2.5 million from PMI and BAT. The UK Conservative Party has hired Mr Crosby through his lobbying firm Crosby Textor Fulbrook, which represents tobacco industry clients including British American Tobacco. In Australia, Mark Textor, co-founder of the company with Mr Crosby, was an adviser to the industry in its unsuccessful campaign against standardised packaging.

In the UK opposition to standardised packaging has been organised by the tobacco industry front group FOREST, through a campaign called ‘Hands Off Our Packs’. FOREST receives well over 90 per cent of its funding from the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry has also hired lobbying firms including Luther Pendragon and Goddard Global to help out.

The UK campaign against standardised packaging is just a part of a worldwide effort by the tobacco industry to defeat what it sees as a major threat to its ‘intellectual property’. In July, 2012 it was reported that the ‘tea party’ pressure group the ‘American Legislative Exchange Council’, which is backed by far right billionaires the Koch brothers, had launched a worldwide campaign against plain packaging of cigarettes.

The power of advertising

Cigarette packaging is last remaining area of tobacco advertising in the UK, following a general ban on advertising in the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002, and a ban on retail displays of tobacco products under the Health Act 2009.

Tobacco manufacturers therefore design their packs very carefully, and in particular to try to appeal to new smokers. Standardised packaging would remove virtually all branding. The pack and contents would be a standard shape, size and colour, and health warnings on front and back would be increased in size.

All packs would have a quitline number and web address. All key security features on existing tobacco packaging will also be on standardised packaging, including covert anti-counterfeit marks and numerical codes, making the industry’s claim that it would increase illicit trade as mendacious as every other argument it has employed on this issue.

Lobbying information suggests that there would be a clear majority in both the Lords and the Commons for standardised packaging, in a free vote.  A free vote was used on the introduction of smokefree enclosed public places, and the measure passed in the Commons with a majority of over 200. Opinion polls also show clear public support for standardised packaging. A recent YouGov poll for ASH found that overall 64 per cent of adults in Great Britain were in favour of standard packaging.

Yet despite public support and the medical evidence that plain packaging would save lives, David Cameron has put the interest of his chums in big business above British public health.

The last Labour government showed leadership in bringing about real change on tobacco control. We introduced the smoking ban in pubs and enclosed spaces, ended sports sponsorship and billboard advertising, raised the legal age of purchasing cigarettes and put graphic warnings on cigarette packs.

It is not too late for Cameron to show similar leadership. He needs to get back on the plane from Ibiza and explain why the government is breaking yet another promise, and why doing the right thing is no longer a priority for his government.

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20 Responses to “Cameron’s friends in big business hold back progress on public health”

  1. OldLb

    At least smokers have a choice in the matter.

    However we have people being murdered in the NHS in the Liverpool care pathway.

    Not a peep. No prosecutions. Nothing.

    We have Stafford. 1,200 slaughtered. What does the NHS do about it? Well there are people connected with Stafford who don’t like the fact that people have found out so they are desecrating the grave of one of they victims and hounding her daughter out of town.

    BMJ research puts the death toll of avoidable deaths at 40,000 a year.

    Not a peep.

    Perhaps its like your approach to schooling. State sector isn’t good enough for you, so you send you kids private.

    Perhaps you do the same with your health.

    The NHS, only for the little people eh?

  2. Joshua

    ‘the medical evidence that plain packaging would save lives’ – what evidence would that be?

  3. Cole

    Still peddling that rubbish about 40,000 unnecessarily deaths a year in the NHS? You know perfectly well, the article you endlessly mention specifically says that the NHS does NOT kill 40,000, and that the likely figure is under 12,000.

  4. Tony Crotty

    If this is such a important issue why didn’t labour pass this law in the 13 years they were in government? Ms abbot neglects to mention the donation from formula one which was connected to tobacco advertising or is she being coy?

  5. LB

    That’s your figure.

    I’ve quoted and linked to the BMJ article which is not your article.

    So even today, we have the news that in behaviour reminicent of a car built by British Leyland on Friday afternoon, the NHS is bumping people off over the weekend.

    How many have been killed by that avoidable death?

  6. Cole

    Let me repeat: the BMJ article you kept telling everyone about said their were under 12,000 unnecessary deaths not 40,000. As you well know.

    The NHS is now definitely in decline as a result of the government’s policies. The chaos at A&E across the country is a disgrace.

    The Conservatives and their friends are floating ideas such as limiting the number of times we can visit a GP and paying for services. It’s not difficult to see where this is heading.

  7. LB

    I posted several links. You are not reading the BMJ link.

    The NHS is fucked. Purely because the NHS has become self centered and taken to looking after the NHS at the expense of patients.

    That’s why just one hospital killed 1,200.

    That’s why 40,000 are killed

    That’s why vast numbers are maimed

    Where are the whistle blowers at Stafford? Bad wasn’t it. Hmmm, how many doctors grassed the bad ones? None. How many nurses? None.

    The campaigner who exposed the Stafford Hospital scandal says she is leaving town after she received abusive messages and her mother’s grave was vandalised.

    Julie Bailey fought for a public inquiry into appalling neglect and shocking standards of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust following the death of her mother Bella, 86.

    After the grave was desecrated, she got a card that reportedly read: “Thank you for closing Stafford hospital, Ha, Ha, Ha, you better now spend more time watching your mother’s grave.”

    It has been handed to police.

    Julie, who runs Breaks Cafe in Stafford, said: “People have been coming in, shouting that nothing happened, that I am lying and that there were no unnecessary deaths.

    Check out all the latest News, Sport & Celeb gossip at
    Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook

    That’s because their little scam, of not caring for patients but taking the cash has been rumbled.

    It’s being going on for years. 4 people I personally know have been killed by incompetence.

    1. Sent home with toxic shock.

    2. One eviscerated because the surgeon didn’t take a swab and get it cultered – end result necrotising facietus

    3. One was intubated into the stomach and not the airway, 02 not monitored, turned blue. By the time they noticed, brain dead.

    4. A mother not treated for a brain aneurysm.

    It’s been going on for years.

    And from your postings, you don’t particularly care.You are wedded to a concept of the NHS. You aren’t concerned at all about what it provides.


    The evidence gathered by the Inquiry shows clearly that for many patients the most basic elements of care were neglected. Calls for help to use the bathroom were ignored and patients were left lying in soiled sheeting and sitting on commodes for hours, often feeling ashamed and afraid. Patients were left unwashed, at times for up to a month. Food and drinks were left out of the reach of patients and many were forced to rely on family members for help with feeding. Staff failed to make basic observations and pain relief was provided late or in some cases not at all. Patients were too often discharged before it was appropriate, only to have to be re-admitted shortly afterwards. The standards of hygiene were at times awful, with families forced to remove used bandages and dressings from public areas and clean toilets themselves for fear of catching infections.

    others showed a disturbing lack of compassion towards their patients. Staff who spoke out felt ignored and there is strong evidence that many were deterred from doing so through fear and bullying

    No doubt the same ones desecrating graves.

    Labour was in power. Labour is responsible for Stafford.You can’t blame the Tories for this.

    Labour paid off the unions with large pay rises and just a small proportion went on treatment.

    End result now, is that without reverting back the payothers showed a disturbing lack of compassion towards their patients. Staff who spoke out felt ignored and there is strong evidence that many were deterred from doing so through fear and bullying

  8. Cole

    You know you are lying.

  9. LB

    You can’t read can you.

    So what are you? Doctor or Nurse at Stafford?

  10. Cole

    Oh grow up. I’ve nothing to do with the NHS.

    You can’t deal with having your fake figures exposed, can you? But that’s what you’d expect from the swivel-eyed tendency.

  11. LB

    Forty thousand patients die every year as a result of mistakes by NHS staff, a report has claimed.

    Half this figure could be easily prevented by tougher safety procedures, according to senior Tory MP David Davis, chairman of the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee.

    The respected former minister published a 35-page report, highlighting a dossier by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson which catalogues around 850,000 ‘adverse events’ – or errors – in the NHS each year.

    While the health service has not worked out how many mistakes were fatal, Mr Davis said in Australia the health authorities calculate 4.9 per cent of adverse events result in death.

    This would mean errors causing 41,650 deaths in Britain each year, although the figure could be higher because Australia’s health service is among the world’s best.

    He warned that the NHS could be crippled by a flood of compensation claims unless action were taken to tackle the problem.

    Read more:
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

    Ho hum, yet another report on top of the BMJ stating 40,000, in this case 41,650 a year

    Health minister John Denham pledged that the new National Clinical Assessment Authority (NCAA) would prevent future scandals by responding quickly to complaints and spotting problem doctors early on.

    Ah yes, yet another failure. Didn’t spot Stafford did they?

    Then there are those starved to death.

    NHS starves 1,165 to death

    AT LEAST 1,165 people have starved to death in NHS hospitals over the past four years.

    Just one cause, ill treatment by the NHS.

    Help you from the craddle to the grave, as fast as possible

  12. Cole

    Er, John Denham stopped being a health minister in 2001, so that article must be at least a decade old. LOL.

  13. Cole

    Oh and David Davis stopped being chairman of the PAC in 2001 too, so this is ancient history.

  14. LB

    And your claiming the NHS has got worse since. Nasty Tories apparently.

    So the death toll will have risen.

  15. Cole

    No idea what you’re talking about. But once again you’ve made a fool of yourself digging up some stuff from around 2001, which, incidentally, was debunked in the BMJ article you kept promoting.

    You’d best go back to the Telegraph or UKIP Weekly as no-one wants to read your rubbish here.

  16. LB


    1. You claim the NHS has got worse under the Tories.
    2. Hard evidence, from Labour of the death toll under Labour.
    3. Conclusion. The death toll now is higher, and its well above 40,000

    You provide no evidence. As usual.

    That’s the problem with you. All mouth and no substance. So you resort to the bugger off to Somalia angle.

    You do not care about those slaughter.

    You do not care about those maimed.

    You do not care about the poor being ripped off by the government.

    You want to tax the poor.

    All evidenced by your postings.

    So answer the two of the questions I’ve asked you.

    Are you working in the NHS?

    Is Abu Qatada a benefit to the UK as a migrant?

  17. Tony Winslow

    Diane Abbott is wrong. Cameron is not breaking a promise. Neither he, nor the Conservative party, ever committed to plain packaging – they only committed to running a public consultation. During that consultation 500,000 members of the public responded to the consultation opposing plain packaging. That level of response is unprecedented.

    When the Labour party was in power – in 2008/2009 it looked at plain packaging as one of a range or measures to introduce. It rejected plain packaging on the grounds that there was no evidence that plain packaging would stop the uptake of smoking. Andy Burnham said it (9/11/2009), so did Gillian Merron – Health Minister – (June 2009) backing up Alan Johnson Secretary of State for Health,16/12/2008.

    Labour’s alternative Queen’s speech (May 2013) did not contain plain packaging. If Diane Abbott thought it was such a priority, it would have been in that document.

  18. Cole

    What a load of old tosh. What has the Mad Mullah got to do with the NHS anyway?

  19. LB

    Hey Cole. You never guess what happened this morning. Blarg was going on about the 40,000 deaths and posted a link.

    What does it contain? Yet another number for the avoidable deaths in the NHS. This time just for two of the many causes.

    Answer 25,000 avoidable deaths from just two causes.

    NHS, from the cradle to the grave, as fast as possible.

  20. Circuit Ben

    Thatcher went straight to work for Phillip Morris after leaving office, Cameron is feathering his nest.

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