Atmosphere Improves Results Initiative

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The Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR) Initiative is a campaign funded by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association.
Launched in 1997, it formed part of a tobacco industry strategy to prevent the introduction of a partial smoking ban in pubs, clubs and other hospitality venues.
It still runs today, helping the hospitality industry “identify and promote practical techniques to resolve the public smoking issue”.1
AIR is managed by Corporate Responsibility Consulting Ltd, a PR company that also works for British American Tobacco.2

‘An Excellent Job Managing to Offset Regulatory Imposition’

AIR was launched to persuade the hospitality industry that better ventilation could reduce the impact of second-hand smoke, and thereby head-off proposed new restrictions on smoking.
The strategy proved successful.
Action on Smoking and Health says that AIR “was instrumental in persuading the government to adopt a voluntary code of practice to restrict smoking in hospitality venues” in the late 1990s.3
In November 1998 a British American Tobacco memo about the Government’s UK White Paper on Tobacco Control, noted: ‘The AIR project run by Oliver Griffiths… has done an excellent job with the hospitality sector and the Department of Health, managing to offset any regulatory imposition’.4

”Don’t Regulate Us”

The transcript of a conference call between Griffiths and Philip Morris executives in the USA in 1998 explains why AIR was set up and how it operated.5
The project was started when the Labour Government came to power in 1997. David Bertram from Philip Morris said: “The Labour party was known for its support of banning tobacco advertising and smoking in public places. The shadow government frequently spoke of increasing tobacco taxes, criticizing the industry for targeting youth and the damages incurred by ETS environmental tobacco smoke, also known as second hand smoke. In order to address the environment, a hospitality program was clearly required”.5
Oliver Griffiths described how “it was important to have media support” for AIR. The project brought together The Publican newspaper, the British Institute of Innkeeping, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and the Brewers & Licensed Retailers Association (BLRA) (though the BLRA later pulled out). “From the outset… the program had to entail what these four groups were comfortable with,” he said. So even though the campaign was masterminded by the tobacco industry, the four groups “had to have ownership”.5
At the same time discussions were held with the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA), the industry body for ventilation fan manufacturers. AMDEA then set up a meeting with five ventilation companies to discuss the issue and pool ideas from the industry.5
Some 500 pubs, in particular those with no-smoking policies, “were surveyed to show that their sales had been affected” by restrictions on smoking.5
In February 1997 there was a “low key” press launch of the programme, held in a London pub. Journalists and trade representatives were invited. This generated “a lot of press coverage, in particular with regard to impacts of legislation and what regulation would do to the industry”.5
AIR also organised four “test sites” to show what better ventilation could achieve. The pubs were “chosen for their smoky atmospheres and receptive landlords who were prepared to share the statistics.” Costs were covered by the ventilation industry and AIR.5
AIR’s investment paid off. Results of the test sites were “forcefully marketed to publications”. AIR also produced a brochure, which highlighted the positive test results, and sent it to 4000 pubs. It was demanded by a further 20,000.5
The transcript says: “Further research has since been done in order to present to Government the philosophy behind AIR, ‘don’t regulate us as we have better ideas and… look at what we are doing already’… The Government has been able to see what AIR has achieved and how they have got rid of the smoke, not the smokers”.5
Bringing civil servants into the process was also important. The transcript notes that in March 1998 AIR hosted a ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ Conference. Speakers included “Richard Kornicki from the Department of Health, who is very involved in the Government White Paper on tobacco which is due to be published this summer”.5

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  1. Air Initiative website, Air Initiative homepage, undated, accessed 24 January 2012
  2. CRC website, Our work, undated, accessed 24 January 2012
  3. Action on Smoking and Health, The tobacco industry, ETS and the hospitality trade, May 2003, accessed 24 January 2012
  4. Simon Millson, Information Update, BAT Industries, 20 November 1998, accessed 24 January 2012
  5. abcdefghijPhilip Morris, Air Conference Call, 5 June 1998, accessed 24 January 2012