Plain Packaging in the UK: Tobacco Industry Built Alliances

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Image 1. Influencers’ diagram, PMI Corporate Affairs Update, March 2012 (slide 12)

As part of its toolbox of third-party techniques, which includes commissioning experts and funding third-party mass mobilisation campaigns, tobacco companies have built alliances more broadly with organisations with common interests. The tables presented on this page provide details of the anti-plain packaging activities of intellectual property organisations, think-tanks, general business groups and retail organisations, all of whom have financial links to tobacco companies.

In 2013 a series of Philip Morris International (PMI) private documents were leaked.[1] The documents reveal the extent of a multifaceted public relations campaign against plain packaging in the UK, including a highly detailed media campaign and detailed political analysis of the best ways to prevent the implementation of the policy.

The leaked 2012 Corporate Affairs presentation revealed that PMI had mapped out the UK legislative process, including which key Government Committees and Departments would be pivotal in deciding the fate of plain packaging, noting that “Multiple Government and Stakeholder Engagement” would be required to successfully oppose the policy.

One instructive slide (Image 1) had British Prime Minister David Cameron at the centre, surrounded by his formal/informal advisers who in turn were surrounded by other “influencers”. This includes Government departments as well as key non-governmental organisations (NGOs), think-tanks, unions and business groups on both sides of the plain packaging debate. Click on the hyperlinked organisations on this page for more detailed information on both the organisation and its activities in opposition of plain packaging.

Intellectual Property Organisations

Tobacco companies have consistently argued that plain packaging policy breaches their intellectual property rights. To this end, companies have commissioned numerous reports to support their arguments.

Organisation Relationship with Industry Activity
APRAM (Association des Practiciens du Droit des Marques) PMI is a member.[2] Issued joint statements against plain packaging with sister associations European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA), Beneluxvereniging voor Merken-en Modellenrecht (BMM), the German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (GRUR), MARQUES, and Union-IP.[3][4][5][6]
Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) British American Tobacco (BAT) disclosed it was a member in 2015.[7] In 2012, BASCAP’s Director, Jeffrey Hardy, warned the UK Government against standardised packaging without supporting scientific evidence.[8] BASCAP went on to submit a response to the 2012 [9] and 2014 consultations, and to write to both the then Home Secretary, Teresa May MP, [10] and the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Michael Fallon MP, after the 2014 consultation to flag the ‘serious concern’ that plain packaging would increase counterfeit tobacco in the UK.[11] BASCAP also lobbied the Enterprise Directorate-General of the European Commission in October 2014, following the UK’s notification to the EU of their proposed Tobacco Products Regulations.[12]
European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA) PMI declared membership in 2014.[2] A few members are in-house lawyers for tobacco companies.[13] Issued joint statements against plain packaging with sister associations APRAM, BMM, GRUR, MARQUES, and Union-IP.[3][4][5][6]
German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (GRUR) PMI disclosed it was a member of GRUR in 2012.[14] Issued joint statements against plain packaging in 2012 and 2013 with sister associations ECTA, BMM, APRAM, MARQUES, and Union-IP. [3][4]
Markenverband DV BAT, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and the German subsidiary of PMI are members.[15] Markenverband co-organised a Seminar on plain packaging with BAT and PMI in 2012.[16]
MARQUES BAT, Imperial Tobacco (IMT), and PMI are fee-paying members.[17] Issued joint statements against plain packaging with sister associations ECTA, BMM, GRUR, APRAM, and Union-IP.[3][4][5][6]

See Countering Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging: It Breaches Intellectual Property Rights for legal opinion on tobacco companies’ intellectual property argument.

Trade, Retail and General Business

Organisation Relationship with Industry Activity
Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) BAT, IMT, PMI and Gallaher are members [18] Opposed plain packaging in the UK’s 2008 consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control and both the 2012 and 2014 consultation on plain packaging (2008 and 2014 were in collaboration with the British Brands Group). Wrote directly to Government Ministers in 2013 when it thought plain packaging would be announced in the Queen’s speech.[18] PMI’s leaked anti-plain packaging strategy identified ACG as a third-party group that it planned to utilise. [1]
Association of Convenience Stores BAT, IMT, JTI and PMI are members. [19] Submitted a detailed response to the 2012 and 2014 consultations.[20][21] It’s Director James Lowman was vocal throughout the debate with statements and arguments from him published in retail press articles. PMI’s leaked anti-plain packaging strategy identified ACS as a third-party group that it planned to utilise. [1]
British Brands Group (BBG) Three tobacco industry members.[22] Submitted detailed responses to the UK’s 2008 consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control and both the 2012 and 2014 consultation on plain packaging (2008 and 2014 were in collaboration with the ACG). The BBG was listed as a central “third party” that PMI wanted to use as a media messenger in its anti-plain packaging campaign.[1] The Group was vocal in its opposition, making statements and giving interviews as well as writing briefings for Parliamentarians.
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) BAT is a member.[23] Tobacco company internal documents show that BAT and other large business lobby organisations, including the CBI, played a leading role in promoting regulatory reform in the European Union (EU), now known as Better Regulation (BR). The CBI joined BAT in an 18-month lobbying campaign to ensure businesses were consulted in all future policy making in the EU. Better Regulation has been criticised for favouring business interests over any others, for example, health.[24] In addition, prior to the final vote on plain packaging in March 2015, Director General of the CBI John Cridland urged MPs to vote against plain packaging in the UK.[25] PMI’s leaked anti-plain packaging strategy identified the CBI as a third-party group that it planned to utilise. [1]
Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT) PMI is a member[26] In joint statements with other US business organisations ECAT voiced its opposition to plain packaging in 3 countries considering its implementation: Australia, the UK and New Zealand. [27][28][29]
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) UK BAT is a member[7] and a BAT executive sits on the ICC Council[30] The ICC requested a meeting with officials from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on plain packaging in January 2012. Emails between the IPO and ICC released under a FOI request suggest that the proposed meeting took place in February 2012.[31]
Imported Tobacco Products Advisory Council (ITPAC) BAT, Gallaher (JTI) and IMT are associate members and are also represented separately by the TMA.[32] The Secretary-General of ITPAC wrote to Treasury Minister, Sajid Javid MP, enclosing a document detailing the organisation’s concerns about plain packaging. The letter was copied to The Chancellor, George Osborne MP, and to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP. In it, ITPAC outline key arguments against plain packaging: evidence, illicit trade, impact of downtrading, trade and competition implications, legal implications and the risks to young people of increased availability of illicit tobacco. The document also focused on the negative impacts on government revenue of the policy.[33]
National Asian Business Association Tobacco Companies are members but it is not known which ones.[34][35] NABA lobbied the Treasury advising against plain packaging.[36] The letter referred to arguments against plain packaging raised in the PMI-funded CEBR report[37], and raised concerns about illicit tobacco and better regulation. The letter was copied to the Prime Minister, Secretaries of State for Health and Business, Home Secretary, Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice, the Attorney General and the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) PMI is a member.[38] Responded to the plain packaging consultation in New Zealand [39] and Australia,[40] and issued joint statements with other US business organisations against the policy in these countries and in the UK. [27][28][29] NAM also lobbied against the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision[41] and sent a letter directly to the Irish Prime Minister to lobby against plain packaging proposals there.[42]
National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) BAT is on the Board of Directors of the NFTC.[43] Vocal in its opposition to plain packaging in countries considering implementation. Issued joint statements with other US business organisations in Australia, the UK and New Zealand[27][28][29] and submitted a consultation response to the UK[44] and New Zealand in 2014.[45]
Rural Shops Alliance BAT and IMT are corporate partners to the RSA. [46] RSA accepted funding from BAT to commission a report from Visuality on the likely impact of plain packaging on rural retail businesses. [47] The RSA subsequently lobbied the Department of Health over the survey’s findings. [48] In 2014, the RSA sent a letter to the Chantler Review [49]
Scottish Grocers' Federation BAT, IMT & PMI are members contributing 9.7% of income from memberships.[50] The Federation submitted a detailed response to the UK consultation in 2012,[20] and again in 2014.[51] PMI’s leaked anti-plain packaging strategy identified the SGF as a third-party media messenger that it planned to utilise. [1]
TransAtlantic Business Dialogue/TransAtlantic Business Council (TABD/TABC) BAT and PMI are members.[52] When the UK government announced their first plain packaging consultation in 2012, TABD issued a joint statement with other US trade associations, including USCIB, the US Chamber of Commerce, ECAT, NAM and NFTC, to oppose the proposals to express their concern about possible "curtailing IP rights and branding".[29]
Unite “Unite represents a large proportion of the 6,000 workers employed in the UK's tobacco industry in JTI, IMT and BAT.”[53] Unite is the largest trade union in the UK and is “dedicated to serving the best interests of its members”[54] Unite released statements in opposition of standardised packaging and submitted detailed responses to both the 2012 and 2014 consultations on the policy.[20][21] PMI’s leaked anti-plain packaging strategy identified the Trade Union as a third-party influencer that it planned to utilise. [1]
United States Council for International Business (USCIB) In 2014 PMI was listed as a member.[55] USCIB issued a joint statement with other US trade associations, including the TABD, the US Chamber of Commerce, ECAT, NAM and NFTC, to express their concern about possible "curtailing IP rights and branding".[29]
US Chamber of Commerce Altria, who own a number of tobacco companies and an alcohol company, is a member of the US Chamber of Commerce.[56] Issued joint statements with other US business organisations in Australia, the UK and New Zealand in opposition to plain packaging in countries considering its implementation.[27][28][29]

Think-tanks

Right of centre, neoliberal or libertarian think tanks have opposed plain packaging, particularly on grounds of illegality, the protection of intellectual property rights and excessive state intervention in the market (or ‘nanny-statism’).

Organisation Funder Activity
Adam Smith Institute In 2013, 3% of its funding came from tobacco companies. [57] The ASI published Plain packaging: Commercial expression, anti-smoking extremism and the risks of hyper-regulation, a book written by Christopher Snowdon. ASI submitted a response to the 2012[20] and 2014[21] public consultations on the policy.
Centre for Policy Studies History of taking tobacco company funding. Tim Knox, then acting Director of the CPS, co-signed a Letter to the Editor of "The Telegraph" in March 2011 from the ‘Enemies of Enterprise’ opposing plain packaging on grounds that it would increase the regulatory burden on businesses and make counterfeiting easier for the illicit tobacco trade. [58]
Institute of Economic Affairs BAT, IMT, JTI and PMI all provide funding. [57][59] Until mid-2013, it was not known whether the IEA took tobacco company funding. Following a series of questions asked by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH (UK)) at BAT’s 2013 Annual General Meeting, it was revealed that the company funded the IEA. IMT, JTI and PMI subsequently made disclosures. During the debate, the IEA’s Director Mark Littlewood and its Director of Lifestyle Economics (a unit created during the plain packaging debate), Christopher Snowdon, were vehemently opposed to plain packaging and lobbied against the policy in TV, radio and press interviews, without disclosing any industry links. PMI’s leaked anti-plain packaging strategy identified the think tank as a third-party media messenger that it planned to utilise. [1]
Montreal Economic Institute 3.4% of MEI’s annual budget in 2004 came from “companies working in the field of sales of cigarettes.”[60][61] The MEI published a paper Plain packaging and its unintended consequences in August 2011, which cited a PMI-funded LECG report to question the quality of the evidence on the effectiveness of plain packaging. The report also argued that the policy would increase tobacco consumption and would be likely to lead to branding restrictions in other sectors.[62]
Reason Foundation Historical funding from PMI.[63][64] In 2011, Tom Clougherty, then Managing Editor for Research at the Reason Foundation, who had also been an executive director of the Adam Smith Institute published a blogpiece on the Adam Smith Institute website criticising plain packaging for being a tool to stigmatise smokers.[65]
Washington Legal Foundation Historical financial links with PMI.[66][67] Published “Erasing Intellectual Property: ‘Plain packaging’ for consumer products and the implications for trademark rights” written by tobacco industry consultants Patrick Basham and John Luik.[68] Submitted a response to the UK 2012 consultation in opposition of plain packaging.[20]

TobaccoTactics Resources

TCRG Research

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update, February 2012. Powerpoint leaked to Action on Smoking and Health, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 EU Transparency Register, Philip Morris International Inc, Financial year 01/2014-12/2014, 27 April 2015, captured 26 July 2016
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 APRAM, BMM, ECTA, GRUR, MARQUES, Union-IP. Objection to the adoption of restrictive legislation or policy options frequently referred to as ‘generic’ or ‘plain packaging’, PR Newswire, 26 April 2012, cached August 2016
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 APRAM, BMM, ECTA, GRUR, MARQUES, Union-IP. Objections to the adoption of ‘plain packaging’ and excessive measures restricting normal use of trademarks. Joint Statement, 3 July 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 APRAM, BMM, CSZV, ECTA, ICC, MARQUES, Unifab, Union-IP. IP Associations’ strong concerns with the Irish Government’s decision to proceed with plain packaging legislation, ECTA website, 25 June 2014, cached October 2015
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 APRAM, ICC BASCAP, BMM, CABD, ECTA, MARQUES, Unifab, UNION-IP, Reflection on the adoption of ‘plain packaging’ legislation, [In French], 28 March 2014, accessed April 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 EU Transparency Register, British American Tobacco, Financial Year 01/2014 – 12/2014, Entry made 4 May 2015
  8. BASCAP, Plain packaging of tobacco raises broader issues for consumers, government and business, ICC Website, 16 April 2012, accessed September 2016
  9. BASCAP, UK Department of Health April 16, 2012 consultation on Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, ICC website, August 2012, accessed September 2016
  10. J.Hardy, BASCAP, BASCAP’s concerns regarding the introduction of ‘plain/standardised’ packaging for tobacco products in the United Kingdom: Letter to Theresa May, ICC Website, 25 August 2014, accessed September 2016
  11. J. Hardy, BASCAP, BASCAP’s concerns regarding the introduction of ‘plain/standardised’ packaging for tobacco products in the United Kingdom: Letter to Michael Fallon, ICC Website, 25 August 2014, accessed September 2016
  12. J. Hardy, BASCAP Notification No:2014/427/UK – X40M – by the United Kingdom of the Standardised Packaging, ICC Website, 14 October 2014, accessed September 2016
  13. ECTA, Joint Oirecachtas Committee on Health and Children. Pre-legislative scrutiny of proposed law for ‘standardised’ or plain packaging for cigarettes – ECTA comments, Brussels, 15 January 2014, cached April 2015
  14. EU Transparency Register, Philip Morris International Inc, Financial Year 01/2012 - 12/2012, accessed 25 March 2014
  15. Markenverband, Unsere Mitglieder, Markenverband Website, 2008-2015, accessed September 2016
  16. Markenverband, Seminar Plain Packaging, 28 June 2012, accessed September 2016
  17. MARQUES, Members, Enter the name of tobacco companies into organisation search bar, accessed August 2016
  18. 18.0 18.1 R. Orchard, ACG General Director's letter to Jeremy Hunt et al, ACG, 12 March 2013
  19. ACS, Premier Club, cached October 2014, WebCite Archive
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Department of Health, Consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products: Summary Report, July 2013, accessed August 2016
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Department of Health, Consultation on the introduction of regulations for standardised packaging of tobacco products: Summary report, February 2015, accessed August 2016
  22. Department of Health, Anti-Counterfeiting Group & British Brands Group response to the 2014 consultation on standardised packaging for tobacco products, Pdf 8 of consultation responses, accessed August 2016
  23. European Transparency Register, British American Tobacco,European Commission, accessed July 2016
  24. Smokefree Partnership, The Origin of EU Better Regulation – The Disturbing Truth. 2010
  25. C. Henry, CBI: Plain cigarette packaging vote is bad for the UK, "City AM", 11 March 2015, cached August 2015
  26. PMI, Carbon Disclosure Project 2012 Information Request, accessed February 2015
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Council for International Business, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the US-ASEAN Business Council, the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue and the National Foreign Trade Council, NFTC joins other leading US business groups in opposing the Australian Government’s proposed plain packaging legislation, Press Release by National Foreign Trade Council, 1 June 2011, cached February 2013
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 US Chamber of Commerce, TABD, ECAT, NAM, USCIB, NFTC, Business groups issue statement expressing deep concern following announcement by Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom is starting a public consultation to review the mandated destruction of trademarks and branding in the tobacco sector, PR Newswire Press Release, 13 April 2012 accessed July 2014
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 29.5 US Chamber of Commerce, TABD, ECAT, NAM, NFTC, USCIB, US Business Groups Issue Statement Expressing Deep Concern Following Announcement by the New Zealand government of a Public Consultation to Review the Mandated Destruction of Trademarks and Branding in the Tobacco Sector, Press Release by National Foreign Trade Council, 20 April 2012, cached February 2013
  30. ICC UK, Council Members, accessed December 2015
  31. ICC, ICC email to the IPO, 27 January 2012
  32. ITPAC, Consultation response from the Imported Tobacco Products Advisory Council, no date
  33. Secretary-General, ITPAC, Standardised packaging on tobacco products, Letter to Treasury Ministers, 24 April 2013
  34. Email from NABA Chairman to question from the Tobacco Control Research Group, 26 August 2014
  35. Home Affairs Committee, Written Evidence: Tobacco Smuggling, pp.191-3, 6 May 2014, accessed September 2016
  36. Chairman, National Asian Business Association, Letter to the Treasury, May 2013
  37. Centre for Economics and Business Research, Quantification of the economic impact of plain packaging for tobacco products in the UK – Addendum to the report for Philip Morris Ltd, August 2013, accessed June 2016
  38. PMI, Carbon Disclosure Project 2012 Information Request, accessed February 2015
  39. Ministry of Health New Zealand, Overseas submissions on the plain packaging of tobacco products consultation, Feb 2013, accessed April 2013
  40. Department of Health & Ageing, Inquiry to Tobacco Plain Package, Appendix A, July 2011, Department of Health and Ageing, Australia, accessed April 2013
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  46. Rural Shops Alliance, Partners, website, accessed September 2016
  47. Visuality and Rural Shops Alliance, The effects of standardised tobacco packaging on retail service in the UK, September 2012
  48. Rural Shops Alliance, Plain tobacco packs would cost retailers tens of millions of pounds a year: RSA research leads the way, 10 October 2012
  49. Kenneth Parsons, Independent Review into Standardised Packaging Of Tobacco Response From The Rural Shops Alliance, undated
  50. SGF, Standardised packaging of tobacco products. Consultation response from the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, undated, cached August 2016
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  52. TABC, TABC Member Companies, accessed July 2016
  53. Unite, How we help, Unite website, accessed July 2014
  54. USCIB, List of USCIB members, Screengrab of USCIB website taken 2 May 2014
  55. Altria, Government Affairs, Engaging with others: membership in policy-orientated organizations, accessed August 2016
  56. 57.0 57.1 J. Doward, Health groups dismayed by news 'big tobacco' funded rightwing thinktanks, The Observer, 1 June 2013, accessed June 2013
  57. P. Basham, E. Butler, D. Edmunds et al, "Enemies of enterprise seek controls on tobacco", The Telegraph, 9 March 2011
  58. S. Stotesbury, Head of Regulatory Science, Imperial Tobacco, Email to University of Bath, 25 March 2014
  59. M. Kelly-Gagnon, Textes d’Opinion: Cout des groups de pression Montreal Economic Institute, 24 January 2004
  60. Non-Smokers Rights Association Smoking and Health Action Foundation, Exposing recent tobacco industry front groups and alliances, October 2008 (accessed October 2016)
  61. M. Kelly-Gagnon, Plain packaging and its unintended consequences, Montreal Economic Institute, August 2011
  62. Unknown, 930000 Corporate contributions report for PM USA / NYO 1993, Philip Morris Records, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents
  63. SourceWatch, Reason Foundation, accessed August 2016
  64. T. Clougherty, Reason Foundation, Plain packaging for cigarettes, Adam Smith Institute Blog, 22 September 2011
  65. Letter from Philip Morris to Washington Legal Foundation, 21 March 1995, Tobacco Truth Documents Library
  66. SourceWatch, Washington Legal Foundation, accessed August 2016
  67. P. Basham, J. Luik, Democracy Institute, Erasing Intellectual Property. 'Plain Packaging' for consumer products and the implications for Trademark rights, Washington Legal Foundation, 2011