Earl Howe

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Earl (Frederick) Howe has been a British Conservative member of the House of Lords since 1984.1
In 2015, he became the Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and Minister of State for Defence.2


Previously, Earl Howe served as:1

  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (May 2010-May 2015)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence (1995-1997)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Agriculture (1992-1995)

Opposed Tobacco Control Measures in the UK

Collaborated with Philip Morris Against Display Ban

In March 2009, while he was still Shadow Health Minister, Earl Howe received a letter from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), in which ASH quoted an opinion by a former Lord Justice of Appeal on the legality of plain packaging. The letter also complained about the tobacco industry’s tactics of “using third-party advocates” in its efforts to delay and discourage reforms.
Documents leaked to the Smokingate website3 revealed, however, that same month Howe was secretly collaborating with Philip Morris and its PR company, Gardant Communications, to work against the then Labour government’s proposed plans on Point of Sale legislation. They reveal that:

  • On 7 March 2009, Howe emailed Gardant, Philip Morris’ PR company: “I should be most grateful for any comments from Philip Morris on the attached.”

The following afternoon Gardant and executives from Philip Morris International (PMI) prepared a briefing for Howe ahead of a crucial debate in the British House of Lords on 9 March.

  • On 19 March, the documents between Philip Morris and Gardant show that they had arranged a meeting with Earl Howe and Lord Borrie to discuss ‘strategy’ and ‘amendments to the bill'”. “Please note” said the email: “the Conservative Party are feeling more optimistic about withdrawing the clause implementing a display ban … I think the Conservatives will wish to escalate the issue of a display ban up the political agenda.”
  • On 31 March, the meeting took place. A note written by Philip Morris / Gardant afterwards revealed that “Earl Howe and the Conservative Party are determined to challenge the POS of Sale display ban outright at the next (Report) stage.”

The email between Philip Morris and Gardant added that Labour peer Lord Borrie would also be tabling amendments, which pleased the tobacco company as he “carries considerable weight on the competition issue as he is a former chairman of the Competition Commission”. Earl Howe, meanwhile, promised to visit Philip Morris’ headquarters in Neuchatal.
The documents also show that Philip Morris believed that Howe “will be vocal publicly” in opposition to the display ban.34
Despite collaborating privately with the tobacco industry, Earl Howe, by now an Under Secretary of State for Health, stated in later debates on tobacco advertising and promotion that the “government take very seriously their obligations as a party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The FCTC places treaty obligations on parties to protect the development of public health policy from the vested interests of the tobacco industry”.5


Freedom2Choose, a smokers’ rights campaign group, claimed in 2012 that Earl Howe “endorses” their campaign to overturn the smoking ban.6

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. abEarl Howe, TheyWorkForYou, undated, accessed April 2019
  2. UK Parliament, Earl Howe, Parliament website, undated, accessed April 2019
  3. abSmokingate, Philip Morris in Secret Cooperation with a British Health Minister Earl Howe, Clear the Air Hong Kong, 20 December 2011, accessed April 2019
  4. J. Doward, The health minister, the tobacco lobby, and a major campaign to derail a cigarette ban, The Guardian, 31 December 2011, accessed April 2019
  5. Hansard, “Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display and Specialist Tobacconists) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2011”, 11 July 2011, accessed April 2019
  6. Freedom 2 Choose, Endorsements: Earl Howe, 5 April 2007, accessed April 2019