IEA: Working with RJ Reynolds, BAT and Philip Morris on Environmental Risk

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Undermining the Concept of Environmental Risk

By the mid-1990s, the Institute of Economic Affairs had extended its work on Risk Assessment (RA). More specifically, the head of IEA’s Environment Unit Roger Bate was interested in undermining the concept of “environmental risk”, especially in relation to key themes, such as climate change and pesticides, and second hand smoke.

Soliciting BAT Funding

In October 1995, the IEA’s Environmental Unit held its first conference on the subject, which was attended by Dr Sharon Boyce from BAT.1

The following month, Bate met Keith Gretton, the Manager of Communication for BAT, seeking the company’s support, as was documented in Bate’s thank you note: “It was a pleasure meeting you earlier today. Our discussion was interesting and most helpful to the IEA’s research. Later this month I shall send you an outline of our environmental risk project. I will look forward to your comments and hope you will find it worthy of BAT’s support.2

The IEA later forwarded to Boyce and Gretton a copy of the proceedings of the conference that was produced in a booklet about Environmental Risk,3 saying that: “Roger will be in touch soon to update you on our risk project – it is coming along well and will be one of our main areas of focus in 1996”.4

Days later, BAT’s Gretton wrote an internal endorsement of IEA’s Risk Assessment (RA) project: “Should the RA programme take off fully in the UK or EU, the IEA is a good ally. A current thrust of its work is on RA (initially re global warming etc, widening its net later in 1996). An RA publication is planned to which we could input. When a decision is made on the appropriate strategy for going forward on RA, we should meet Roger Bate head of IEA Environment Unit”.5

IEA / ESEF Book on Environmental Risk

In 1996, Roger Bate, under the auspices of the IEA as well as his parallel project the European Science and Environment Forum, wrote a proposal for a book on Environmental Risk: “The principle objective of the book is to highlight the uncertainties inherent in ‘scientific’ estimates of risk to humans and the environment resulting from exposure to certain hazards”, including second hand smoke. The budget for the book was UK£50,000.6

RJ Reynolds Funding

In July 1996, Bate approached RJ Reynolds with the book proposal. He wrote:

“What I propose is that we publish a book on risk, illegible low dose risks, from both a science and social science perspective … The book will be 150 pages and contain a media friendly summary. It should be sent to 2,000 identified media and other policy makers across Europe … It should also be sent to every relevant university department across Europe. The link with the social side and the Institute of Economic Affairs will endure a wide audience.”7

The book was a joint project between ESEF and the IEA, with each probably putting in £25,000. “It would be helpful if you could confirm funding as soon as possible as I hope to push forward on this project as soon as possible.78

The documents reveal that RJ Reynolds supported Bate’s book and was interested in how it sold and was promoted. One RJ Reynolds inter-office memo on the company’s “External Relations” activities from November 1997 said:

The book, What Risk, edited by Roger Bate has received considerable media coverage, especially in the UK. The book is carried at the Frankfurt book fair, the biggest in the world, where it is promoted and foreign versions (German) are negotiated. Dissemination among relevant audiences (media, legislators, scientists) is ongoing through the editor and the publishers.9

Authors to be renowned scientists without any previous connections to the industry

An RJ Reynolds internal monthly report for February 2007 gave an update on the “Book project with ESEF”. It included:

  • “Got industry aligned and met with editor Roger Bate to discuss current status and publication details.
  • Status: most papers submitted, editing process begun.
  • Publication: negotiations with major U.K. publishing house to ensure maximum distribution and marketing. Target date: in time for Frankfurt Book Fair in autumn.” 10

The document also included a “Background” statement, showing how one of the key attractions for Reynolds was that “Authors to be renowned scientists without any previous connections to the industry”.10

BAT Funding

One week after approaching RJ Reynolds, Bate approached Keith Gretton from BAT, saying “Attached is the outline for the book on Risk that we would like to publish. I am putting some information in the post to you about ESEF, lets speak later in the week, when you’ve received it. But if you have any immediate comments please come back to me on my new number.”

The budget for the book had doubled within a week to UK£105,000.11

Soliciting Philip Morris Funding

In October 1996, an internal Philip Morris (PM) document memo indicated Bate had also approached PM for funding. It said: “thank you for the information on ESEF and the letter sent by Roger Bate to R. Pauling. I was not aware that Roger is also seeking funding from the other cigarette companies”.12

Risk Book Was Part of BAT’s PR Plan

The following year, 1997, BAT’s Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee (CORA), outlined various areas of scientific research they would fund, including on ETS and risk. The document noted that “We believe that if good risk assessment practice was applied, no agency could determine that ETS was a cause of lung cancer. This project aims to encourage risk assessment, and to illustrate the problems when consistent risk assessment is not applied”.13

The document went on to propose the “Plan”:

“To sponsor a brochure on risk assessment using the Social Affairs Unit and the Institute of Economic Affairs. The brochure would discuss risk assessment principles, illustrate where a lack of proper rules and openness has lead [sic] to politically correct regulatory conclusions (including on the ETS issue), and illustrate the economic importance of not regulating on issues that have little or no importance to health.”13

The budget was UK£60,000, with a proposed donation to the Social Affairs Unit and IEA.13

That year Bate’s book on risk was published entitled: “What Risk? Science, Politics and Public Health”. It was edited by Bate, published by Butterworth-Heinemann and ESEF, and promoted by the IEA. An IEA advertisement said: “Research findings published in the book What Risk? cast doubt on the relationship between lung cancer in non-smokers and environmental tobacco smoke (secondary smoking)”.14 The book was sent to all of BAT’s CORA managers.15

Bate was also one of the speakers in April 1998 when BAT organised a conference on risk, fronted by the European Policy Centre.1617

Raising the Debate

By the late 1990s, The European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF) had become more of a vehicle for pro-tobacco work than the IEA. BAT’s CORA plan for 1998 included paying out UK£150,000 in funding to Bate’s ESEF, rather than the IEA. Under “Raising the debate” it said:

“Support public policy groups (Social Affairs Unit, the Cato Institute and European Science and Environment Forum) and academics associated with such groups to produce book and articles on issues such as risk evaluation and social policy on tobacco issues.”18

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  1. The Institute for Economic Affairs & L. MacLellan, Letter from Lisa MacLellan to Sharon Boyse enclosing overview of current programme on recent article by Roger Bate, 8 January 2006, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 503104845-503104846, accessed July 2021
  2. Institute of Economic Affairs & R. Bate, Letter from Roger Bate to Keith Gretton regarding IEA’s research, 2 November 2005, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, accessed July 2021
  3. Institute of Economic Affairs, Environmental Risk, 1995, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 503104775-503104785, accessed July 2021
  4. The Institute of Economic Affairs & L. MacLellan, [Letter from Lisa MacLellan to Keith Gretton enclosing a copy of the latest issue of economic affairs on environmental risk], 8 January 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 503104832, accessed July 2021
  5. K. Gretton, Institute of Economic Affairs, 18 January 1995 (but is in fact 1996 as it quotes IEA’s 1995 Winter Magazine), Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 503104585, accessed July 2021
  6. Unknown, Environmental Risk, 07 August 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 515952606-515952609, accessed July 2021
  7. abR. Bate & European Science and Environment Forum, It was a pleasure to meet you in Geneva recently, 7 August 1997, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 515952604-515952605, accessed July 2021
  8. S.B. Sears & RJR Intl, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. – Cologne Office-., 8 August 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 515952601-515952602, accessed July 2021
  9. T.C. Griscom, Following are highlights of October External Relations activities and issues worldwide., 4 November 1997, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 527892328-527892335, accessed July 2021
  10. abA. Gietz & RJR Intl, Monthly Report – February 1997 (11970200)., 27 February 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 531807335-531807338, accessed July 2021
  11. R. Bate, Environmental Risk, 6 August 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 800160677-800160680, accessed July 2021
  12. T. von Wuthenau, Facsimile Cover Sheet Press article on lung cancer research, 21 October 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 2502280315, accessed July 2021
  13. abcUnknown, Science and Regulation – Consumer and Regulatory Affairs: 1997 Plan & Budget, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 700376068-700376077, accessed July 2021
  14. The Institue of Econoimc Affairs, What Risk? Science, Politics and Public Health, Unknown, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 321335484-321335486, accessed July 2021
  15. V. Curtis, UK News Article on ETS, 30 March 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 321323998-321324000, accessed July 2021
  16. V. Curtis & British American Tobacco Company Limited, Risk Conference – Things to Do!, 20 March 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 321574592-321574594, accessed July 2021
  17. The European Policy Centre, Managing Risk – A Balancing Act, 29 April 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 321574405-321574410, accessed July 2021
  18. Unknown, CORA Central Plan 1998, 26 September 1997, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 321323349-321323385, accessed July 2021