Halogen Communications

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Halogen Communications is a public relations (PR) consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland with an international office in Washington DC.[1]

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Philip Morris International (PMI) is a client of Halogen.[2]

Halogen's founder has referred to the company's PMI work as an “exciting account”.[3]

Halogen Press Release, November 2013

Pushing for Harm Reduction

In August 2018, following the publication of a report on e-cigarettes by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Halogen press-released PMI’s response, quoting PMI’s scientist Moira Gilchrist:

“We strongly support the recommendation for the relaxation of regulations that would allow smokers to be informed about the health benefits of alternatives to smoking such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco”.[4]

A few months earlier, PMI and the Scottish Grocers' Federation had unsuccessfully tried to set up a Parliamentary Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Harm Reduction and/or e-cigarettes in Scotland.[5] Public records of the Scottish Lobbying Register[6][7] document that Halogen Communications and PMI met with Member of Scottish Parliament Richard Lyle, who was asked to convene the CPG, on 19 April 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to brief the MSP on “the latest developments relating to heated tobacco products, e-cigarettes and smoking harm reduction in Scotland and the UK”, and “to discuss the possible formation of a Cross-Party Group on vaping at the Scottish Parliament”. For more information on this CPG, see Scottish Grocers' Federation.

Plain Packaging: Scaremongering over Illicit Tobacco

Since 2013, Halogen has worked with PMI and ex-Policeman Will O’Reilly to undermine the Scottish government’s plans for Plain Packaging. The public relations strategy employed by Halogen and PMI in Scotland was an extension of the same one employed by the tobacco company against plain packaging in England.

Just as the tobacco companies did in England, Halogen scaremongered over illicit tobacco claiming the trade would increase as a direct consequence of plain packaging. By November 2013, the PR company was arguing that illicit tobacco had reached “endemic” levels in Scotland.[8]

That same month, Halogen worked with PMI to disseminate a report by the accountancy firm KPMG which argued that the percentage of illicit had increased in Australia, post the introduction of plain packaging. [9] Although the study’s methodology had been dismissed by Australian public health experts as “flawed”, and the findings to show “gross exaggerations”,[10] Halogen’s press release argued that the Australian report “should give Scottish Government pause for thought”.[11]

The PR company continued the illicit scaremongering tactic into 2014, arguing that illegal tobacco was “rife” across Scotland in February 2014, after releasing the results of a survey by Will O’Reilly.[12]

Other Clients

Worked With British Curlers

Ironically, at the same time as working for one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, Halogen was also working with British Olympians.

A month before the winter Olympics, in January 2014 it was announced that Halogen had won the contract with the British Curling team for the games in Sochi. “Halogen will be helping the organisation raise the profile of the Olympic team, as well as the individual curlers, and their stories, as the Games approaches.” [13] In August 2018, British Curling was no longer on the list of clients on Halogen’s website.[2]

City of Glasgow Council: Fighting Heart Disease

The company has also been highlighting dangers of heart disease with the City of Glasgow College. In February 2014, Halogen posted on its website that students and staff at City of Glasgow College, which is one of its clients, had raised hundreds of pounds in a campaign against heart disease. “Representatives of the college handed out literature and set up information desks to raise awareness of heart disease and its causes”, read the article on Halogen’s website. [14] In August 2018, City of Glasgow Council still showed as a client on Halogen’s website.[2]

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Link

Notes

  1. Halogen, Website, accessed February 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Halogen Communications, Our clients, 2013, accessed August 2018
  3. All Media Scotland.com, That Was the Year That Was: John Crawford Director Halogen Communications, 31 December 2013, accessed August 2018
  4. Halogen Communications, PMI supports Science and Technology Committee Report, 17 August 2018, accessed August 2018
  5. J. Lee. Letter to Richard Lyle MSP, subject: Smoking Harm Reduction. 30 April 2018
  6. Scottish Parliament Lobbying Register, Entry Philip Morris Limited 19/04/2018, accessed July 2018
  7. Scottish Parliament Lobbying Register, Entry Halogen Communications 19/04/2018, accessed July 2018
  8. Halogen Communications, Illicit Tobacco Trade Endemic in Scotland, Press Release, 21 November 2013, accessed August 2018
  9. KPMG, Illicit Tobacco in Australia, October 2013
  10. P. Farrell, Illegal tobacco consumption increases, survey funded by cigarette firms says, The Guardian, 4 November 2013, accessed August 2018
  11. A. Schweitzer-Thompson, “Subject: Evidence of illicit cigarette trade in Australia should give Scottish Government pause for thought,” Halogen Communications, 4 November 2013
  12. PMI, Region-By-Region Investigation Finds Scotland is Rife in Illicit Tobacco Trade, Press Release, undated circa February 2014
  13. Halogen Communications, Halogen wins British Curling Account, Press Release, 9 January 2014, accessed August 2018
  14. Halogen Communications, City of Glasgow College joins campaign fighting heart disease, 7 February 2014, accessed August 2018