Anti-Counterfeiting Group

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The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) is a trade association which describes itself as “an international voice of business, shaping an effective response to one of the world’s most insidious and menacing transnational crimes”. Their website states that it “works relentlessly with UK, EU and international Governments and law enforcement agencies to shape an effective deterrent to counterfeiting”.1
Founded in the UK in 1980 with just 18 brand owners, in 2019 the organisation stated that it represented more than “3,000 of the world’s most prestigious brands”.2.
Some of the world’s largest companies are members, including in 2019: Apple, Unilever and Diageo.3
In 2019, three of the main international tobacco companies were members: Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco. Although BAT company BATMark was listed as a member in 2017, by 2019 they no longer appeared to be a member of the ACG.4
According to the ACG, benefits of membership include “direct input to UK & EU lobbying, policy development & public communications” and “members’ interests promoted via ACG’s profile and influence with government, law enforcement, the media and other IP (Intellectual Property) protection interests worldwide”.5

Links to the Tobacco Industry: ACG Co-founded by British American Tobacco

A 1981 BAT document marked as “a confidential publication for use within the organisation only” revealed that British American Tobacco (BAT) was a co-founder of the ACG.6
An issue of the BAT Marketing News, this document states that “In order to meet the problems posed by counterfeiting, a number of major manufacturers in the United Kingdom, including Beecham, BAT, Dunlop, Ford and Distillers, have joined together to form an Anti-Counterfeiting Group.”6
Apart from sharing experiences and assisting each other in combating counterfeiting problems, the aim was “to apply pressure where necessary, to effect changes in legislation when that legislation is not adequate to deal with the problem.”6
In 2012, the ACG had 162 members, including the big four tobacco companies: Gallaher (Japan Tobacco International‘s operation in the UK), Philip Morris International (PMI), Imperial Tobacco and BAT, which is represented by BATMark, its Central Trade Mark Management Company.7
Additionally, the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA), an industry lobby group, was (and remains) a correspondent member.48910

Against Plain Packaging

The ACG responded to the 2008 UK Department of Health consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control and to the UK Consultation on plain (standardised) packaging in 2012, citing its concern about the potential for plain packaging legislation in the future and what this would mean for its members.910 The response was presented in collaboration with the British Brands Group (BBG), a trade body that provides a collective voice for brand manufacturers operating in the UK.
The joint response to the consultation concentrated specifically on the plain packaging of tobacco products, which was being considered as one initiative to reduce the uptake of smoking, particularly among children and young people (para 3.63). The response stated that the ACG and the BBG believed that plain packaging represented both an invitation to counterfeiting and a potential and significant restriction on branding in the UK and branding’s ability to contribute to consumers and the economy.11

Similarly, the ACG submitted a response to the 2012 consultation due to its concern over counterfeiting and illicit trade:

“We are responding to this consultation because a general point of principle is at stake which concerns all our members – the likely impact of introducing ‘plain’ packaging on the future scale of counterfeiting in relation to any product.”9

In its submission the ACG disclosed that it received £12, 650 + VAT from tobacco companies in 2012. 9
In March 2013, it was reported that plain packaging for tobacco products was going to be announced in the Queen’s speech in May of that year.12
In response to this news, the ACG wrote a letter to government Ministers warning against:

  • the implications for trade mark owners in general if plain packaging becomes the solution of choice for other health or safety issues;
  • the making of government policy and legislation which fails to balance risks and benefits, and is created with insufficient evidence or public opinion to support it;
  • the widespread implications for fair competition and the exercise and protection of intellectual property rights, in the face of an increasing tendency for government to seek to address health issues by other means, particularly packaging.8

The arguments in the letter summarized the ACG 2012 submission and were broadly consistent with those that the tobacco industry utilised: there was no scientific evidence that it would work, there was a risk of increased smuggling due to increased counterfeit and tobacco prices would fall as companies competed for market share.
The ACG concluded that more research was required, and that the UK Government should wait until the consequences of Australia’s plain packaging legislation were clear.

A Third Party Lobby Group for PMI


In mid-2013, new leaked documents authored by PMI in early 2012 revealed that the company planned a multi-faceted campaign to oppose the British government’s plans to introduce plain packaging. 1314
The ACG was a central third party that PMI planned to use in its anti-plain packaging campaign (see Image and below).
For more information, see:

ACG identified by Philip Morris International as an ‘Influencer’

In the leaked presentations, PMI identified all those whom it considered to be major players in the UK legislative decision-making process.
PMI named “key committees” such as the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight Unit, the Regulatory Policy Committee and the Government’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) Reducing Regulation Committee (p15) which, among other things, strives to reduce the burden of regulation in accordance with the principles of Better Regulation.
PMI also detailed a model centred around UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the “decision maker” (see Image). Cameron, depicted at the epicentre, is surrounded by nine “formal/informal advisors” who in turn were surrounded by a large number of “influencers” including MPs, Lords, Government departments and a series of non-governmental organisations, charities and lobby groups (see Image). Included amongst the lobby groups identified by PMI as influencers was the ACG.

“Intellectual Property Work-stream”

One of the main themes of PMI’s anti-Plain Packaging campaign was to raise the issue that removing branded packaging would violate the Intellectual Property of the tobacco companies. It had used such a message in Australia.
The company planned to “engage” the Intellectual Property Office, both directly and indirectly. The third party groups it planned to use in its Intellectual Property work-stream included the ACG.

Draft Early Day Motion Includes ACG

The documents also included what appears to be a draft Early Day Motion, which PMI was seeking to get placed in the House of Commons.
The last part of this draft states that it “urges the Government to do more to address the problem and agrees with the Anti-Counterfeiting Group that the possible introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products would ‘represent an invitation to counterfeiting’ and will not address the issue of youth smoking but will risk a number of adverse consequences.”

TobaccoTactics Resources

TCRG Research

Visit Group: Peer-Reviewed Research for a full list of our journal articles of tobacco industry influence on health policy.

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  1. The Anti-Counterfeiting Group, About Us, ACG website, undated, accessed July 2019
  2. The Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Who we are, ACG website, undated, accessed July 2019
  3. The Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Full members, ACG website, undated, accessed July 2019
  4. abThe Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Members, ACG website, undated, accessed July 2019
  5. The Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Being a member, ACG website, undated, accessed July 2019
  6. abcBAT, Marketing News, December 1981, accessed July 2019
  7. ACG, ACG Members, ACG web page, 10 July 2012, accessed July 2019
  8. abRuth Orchard, ACG General Director’s letter to Jeremy Hunt et al, ACG, 12 March 2013
  9. abcdACG, Consultation on Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products: Response from the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, 10 August 2012, accessed March 2013
  10. abDepartment of Health, Consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products: Summary report, July 2013, accessed July 2019
  11. ACG and BBG, A joint response, Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control, 5 Sep 2008, available from British Brands Group document library, accessed July 2019
  12. Patrick Wintour, Government to legislate for plain cigarette packaging this year, the Guardian, 5 March 2013, accessed July 2019
  13. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update February 2012, Leaked in 2013
  14. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update March 2012, Leaked in 2013