Career with British American Tobacco
O’Reilly is the co-founder of the tobacco industry-funded Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF), a tobacco industry networking forum launched in 2008. O’Reilly served as first chair of the GTNF advisory board until he stood down in 2016.
He was also a speaker at the Global Forum of Nicotine 2017, an event organised by Knowledge-Action-Change (K-A-C). Gerry Stimson, the Director of K-A-C., has declared that he received hospitality from BAT staff in the past.
Controversy: “Nicotine Is Good For Health”
In 2013, O’Reilly caused controversy when he told The Sunday Times Magazine that “nicotine is good for you”. He added that he believed that nicotine was good for the brain and that smoking an e-cigarette “was as safe as drinking a cup of coffee”. Will Hill, BAT spokesperson, backed up O’Reilly’s claim by saying that “nicotine was good for health as it was being used by pharmaceutical companies to treat Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”
Health experts however have dismissed these claims as ‘irresponsible’, and only part of the story. Professor John Britton, chairman of the British Royal College of Physicians, agreed that in single use nicotine could improve concentration and hand-eye co-ordination, but added that nicotine is “also a powerfully addictive drug , and there comes a time when you need nicotine just for your brain to function normally”.
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- C. Conway, J. Arlidge. Nicotine is good for you, says tobacco firm scientist. The Sunday Times, 15 December 2013
- Royal College of Physicians, Nicotine without smoke. Tobacco harm reduction. A report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians, RCP website, 2016, accessed September 2017