Plans to ban cigarette displays in shops ‘disrupted after Tory peer contacted lobbying group for tobacco giant’ says the Daily Mail
Plans to ban cigarette displays in shops were disrupted after a Tory peer contacted a lobbying group for a major tobacco firm, it has been claimed.
And the relationship between ministers and groups representing the interests of powerful industries has now been called into question after emails between Lord Howe and Philip Morris International were leaked.
Newspaper articles of this kind can only come about because the general population have been sold the idea that ‘Big Tobacco’ are an evil empire intent on pushing hard drugs on children.
In other areas of lawmaking it is normal to provide a fully rounded view. When a new motoring law is proposed for example, it is normal to see a quote in the press from the RAC, on behalf of the motorists that will be affected. This is simply viewed as providing balance. Propose an illiberal law that will penalise smokers however, and any attempts to give a voice to the tobacco industry is seen as doing a deal with the Devil himself.
The correspondence shows that the hereditary peer wrote to Gardant – the Westminster lobbyist for tobacco giant PMI – in March 2009, forwarding a letter from anti-smoking campaigners.
According to a report in today’s Observer, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) had written to the then-Shadow Health Minister warning that planned legislation to sell cigarettes in plain packets risked being bypassed by unscrupulous tobacco manufacturers taking advantage of loopholes in trading laws.
Yes. ASH, the anti smoking fake charity that is funded out of our pockets wrote to Lord Howe, lobbying him in effect, to voice concerns over what they perceive to be a ‘loophole’ in the law. Of course this is no loophole. By enforcing plain packaging, the Government could be interfering with the intellectual property rights of manufacturers, something which may well be illegal and definitely needs testing in court.
To ASH though, this is something which stands in the way of their prohibitionist agenda. To them it’s a loophole, they care nothing for property rights as has already been demonstrated with the smoking ban which they lobbied for.
Lord Howe, quite rightly, then contacted Philip Morris via Gardant, their publicity arm, and requested their views on the letter. Cue outrage from ASH.
Just two days before the House of Lords was to debate the legislation on March 9, 2009, Lord Howe forwarded the letter to Gardant, asking for a reaction to ASH’s claims. Within 24 hours, Morris executives were able to provide the peer with a briefing – just ahead of the crucial Lords debate.
According to the newspaper, the Shadow Minister, alongside Labour peer Lord Borrie, subsequently attended a series of private meetings with Gardant to discuss how the new legislation could be amended.
And the emails – leaked by a PMI whistleblower – also reveal that Lord Howe intended to kill the proposal for a display ban.
The display ban will not do a thing to bring down smoking levels but will harm traders at a time when business is already pretty dire. The anti smokers know and accept this as it’s all a part of prohibition. Groups like ASH do not care about individual choice, property rights, business or livelihoods as they have demonstrated many times. Occasionally an MP or Lord with a little common sense will pop along and try to do the right thing. In order for this to happen they must have the full story from both sides.
That’s what Lord Howe wanted and that’s why he contacted Phillip Morris with ASH’s letter and then engaged in dialogue with them.
The emails also show how manufacturers were behind a campign claiming that a display ban would harm retailers. Cigarette manufacturers ploughed money into organisations such as the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which later warned that commercial factors needed to ‘outweigh other criteria’ when the new law was being considered.
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents did indeed campaign along those lines. They may well have also been helped by money from the tobacco companies. The Government were proposing as scheme that would do a great deal of damage to their members so of course they were going to campaign against it and of course they were going to accept money from another group of people who were similarly due to be hit hard by the proposals.
It’s only through the twisted use of words and the addition of emotive language such as this article that you can make any of this sound like a big conspiracy by the tobacco companies. What about the money poured into anti smoking groups like ASH, and the lobbying of Government for further tobacco restrictions from the pharmaceutical industry? No mention.
MPs were also advised of a poll claiming that 80 per cent of shopkeepers believed a ban would harm their businesses. The poll was produced by a retail organisation which is supported by the tobacco industry.
Claiming? Who cares what involvement the tobacco industry has in the poll. As long as the data presented is complete and accurate (Something you never see from anti tobacco) then it is valid. Who better than a shop keeper to tell you what effect the display ban is likely to have?
And the leaked documents also show how, just before the 2010 General Election, MPs came under further pressure from tobacco lobbyists who recommended that the proposals should be delayed.
Lets not forget that these proposals along with all the other tobacco prohibitionist claptrap have come about by pressure from anti tobacco lobbyists. ASH and Big Pharma.
After the Coalition came to power in May 2010, a compromise was reached whereby a display ban will be introduced in supermarkets later this year – but newsagents will not have to follow suite until 2015. A planned consultation on plain packaging has also been delayed.
Although Lord Howe denied that the delays are the result of pressure from Gardant or the tobacco industry, the Government’s relationship with lobbysists is now being questioned.
If the Government relationship with lobbyists is being questioned then let’s do it right. ASH are nothing more than lobbyists themselves, and paid for from the taxpayers pocket. If you want to stop lobbying by the tobacco giants then fine, do it. But stop all public payments to ASH, along with all the other fake charities that get our money and use it to shape Government policy. Every one of them.
If you must close your ears to industry interests then stop listening to all these groups altogether.
ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott told the Observer: ‘The Coalition Government has committed to live up to its legal obligations to protect its public health policy from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry, but it cannot do so if industry lobbying is covert and hidden from public scrutiny.’
That was me slapping Debs in the face with the irony stick. Let’s see the actions of ASH opened up to public scrutiny then. Let’s see the Stirling University data made public as requested by FOI.
The commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry may do harm to public health policy. That’s ok with me because the commercial and vested interests of public health policy has done immeasurable harm to liberty. Something which I value a lot higher.