Democracy Institute

This page was last edited on at


The Democracy Institute calls itself “a politically independent public policy research organization based in Washington and London”. Founded in 2006, it argues that it “aims to provide a balanced and thoughtful perspective on topical issues, promoting open and rational debate based on evidence rather than ideology”.1
Its director is Dr Patrick Basham, who was also an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute until December 2013. 2 Before joining the Cato Institute, Basham served as the founding director of the Social Affairs Center at the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading free market think tank.3 Two pro-tobacco advocates are also involved in the Institute:

Past Tobacco Industry Funding

The organisation’s website provides no information about its main funders. However, a 2006 Democracy Institute study of graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, written by John Luik, states that it was “made possible by funding provided by Imperial Tobacco Group PLC”.6

Current Industry Funding?

In May 2012, the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath asked the Democracy Institute whether it was currently receiving tobacco industry funding, or had received funding in the past. The Group received no reply to its request.7

Pro-Tobacco Activities – Current

The Letter to the Daily Telegraph

In March 2011 Patrick Basham, the Director of the Institute, was one of 11 signatories of a Letter to the Editor in the Daily Telegraph attacking the Government’s position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.

Voices of Freedom Debates

In May 2011 it was announced that the Democracy Institute was one of the partners of The Free Society‘s Voices of Freedom series of debates, along with Privacy International, Manifesto Club, the Adam Smith Institute and Liberty League. Speakers included:

Polling English Voters for Thoughts on Plain Packaging

On 17 July 2014, in the middle of the UK Government’s six-week second public consultation on the introduction of plain (standardised) packaging for tobacco products, the Democracy Institute publicised the results of a survey of English voters commissioned by the “politically independent think tank.” 8
According to the Democracy Institute, the results revealed:

* “A majority of voters” (38%-54%) are against plain packaging;

* “A plurality of voters” (42%) are less likely to vote for parties that are in favour of plain packaging;

* “More than two-thirds” fear plain packaging is likely to promote further smuggling;

* “one-third of smokers “admit that plain packaging would make them more likely to buy their cigarettes on the illicit market.”

The survey consisted of telephone calls to 1,050 randomly selected English voters over the course of four days in July. However, the study does not include the data obtained nor does it explain whether or how it was ensured that different regions, classes, and political parties were proportionately represented in the survey. It also does not disclose whether the tobacco industry supported or funded the survey. This makes it difficult to critically analyse the credibility of the study or its conclusions.

Advisory Council

According to the Institute’s website,9 the Council includes:

  • Nigel Ashford – Institute of Humane Studies
  • Juliette Baysham – Public Health Fellow
  • Jason Clemens – Fraser Institute
  • Veronique de Rugy – Mercatus Center
  • Jamie Dettmer – International Foundation for Electoral Systems
  • Chris Edwards – Cato Institute
  • Ivan Eland – Independent Institute
  • Jeannie Cameron – International Law and Regulatory Fellow
  • Roger Penn- International Business and Science Policy Fellow
  • Jeremy Lott – Senior Fellow
  • Michael Mosbacher – Social Affairs Unit
  • Gerry Nicholls – Senior Fellow
  • Charles Pena – George Washington University
  • Christopher Preble – Cato Institute
  • Marian Tupy – Cato Institute
  • Martin Zelder – University of Chicago

TobaccoTactics Resources

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Democracy Institute, About Us, accessed June 2011
  2. Patrick Basham, LinkedIn Profile, September 2020, accessed September 2020
  3. Cato Institute, Patrick Basham profile, accessed September 2020
  4. Basham and Luik, “Five-a-day won’t keep the doctor away”, Spiked, 13 May 2010, accessed June 2011
  5. Democracy Institute, Democracy Institute adjunct scholar Christopher Snowdon’s new book, accessed June 2011
  6. John Luik, A Picture of Health? Why Graphic Warnings Don’t Work, The Democracy Institute, 2006, accessed 17 December 2011
  7. Tobacco Control Research Group, Submitted Online Contact Form Inquiry to Democracy Institute, 25 May 2012
  8. Democracy Institute, Poll: Torries hurt by nanny state policies: Voters dislike plain packaging, tobacco industry in equal measure, 17 July 2014, accessed July 2014
  9. Democracy Institute, Advisory Council, accessed September 2020