Posted by: Sheila Duffy ASHS | May 9, 2011

Guardian lifts lid on tobacco lobbying

Congratulations to journalists at the Guardian for winkling out further covert tobacco industry lobbying being channelled through a retailer representative organisation. At a recent British American Tobacco AGM, company chairman Richard Burrows confirmed that the tobacco group had funded the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) and attended meetings with the group and lobbyists Hume Brophy to discuss the campaign against the point-of-sale move – despite a previous denial.

This validates the fears previously expressed by a past president of the NFRN that the organisation was being shamelessly used by tobacco companies to further their own campaigns, and must add to the concerns of elected representatives who have previously been targeted with ‘Save our Shops‘ lobbying that purported to come from retailers but had in fact been funded and motivated by the Tobacco Retailers Association, a tobacco industry front group.

Last week, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association publicised an event to discuss proposed retrograde moves for Scottish pubs, including reintroducing smoking areas, and using ventilation to tackle second-hand tobacco smoke. Unsurprisingly given these backwards looking, expensive and unworkable proposals, the event is part funded by the Tobacco Manufacturers Association; an organisation of just three members, British American Tobacco, Gallaher Ltd (a member of Japan Tobacco), and Imperial Tobacco. It is also being organised by Oliver Griffiths who was involved in promoting the tobacco industry’s AIR (Atmosphere Improves Results) campaign.  AIR targeted retailers, presenting the discredited and expensive solution of ventilation as an alternative to the smoking ban.

Organisations representing the licensed trade and retailers in Scotland do  their members no favours by accepting money and taking direction from tobacco companies. In the end, their credibility as trade representative bodies is being used by the tobacco industry to undermine or delay effective public health measures which will save lives.

More questions need to be asked about the tobacco industry’s vested interests and its abuse of natural allies to shore up its lethal business.



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