John Whittingdale

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John Whittingdale has been a Conservative Member of British Parliament (MP) since 1992, representing a series of constituencies centred around the town of Maldon, Yorkshire, Northern England.
From 1993 to 1997, he served on the House of Commons Select Health Committee.1
Under then Prime Minister David Cameron, Whittingdale served as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (May 2015-July 2016).

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

‘Wined and Dined’ Philip Morris (2016/17)

An article in The Guardian revealed that Whittingdale had hosted a reception for Philip Morris International (PMI) in November 2016.2
Nigel Evans MP hosted a similar event for PMI in March 2017.
Both meetings, hosted in parliament, appear to be part of PMI’s strategy to use harm reduction and the company’s Next Generation Products to help normalise the company and its business. PMI’s Peter Nixon told The Guardian:2

“We have organised a number of meetings, hosted by parliamentarians from across the political divide, to explain our company’s smoke free goals and our plans to develop less harmful alternatives to cigarettes”.

Nixon added:

“In meeting MPs and lords, we have also explained the role we believe we can play in helping the Government to achieve the goals of the tobacco control plan: ‘Towards a smoke-free generation”.

The events were criticised by Labour’s health spokesperson, Justin Madders, who said:

“Members of parliament ought to be setting a lead on public health issues and, with such a well-established link between tobacco and poor health, it seems incongruous and unsettling for so many tobacco companies to be hosting events in parliament”.2

Accepted Tobacco Industry Hospitality (1999-2001)

Whittingdale participated twice in the annual Lords and Commons clay pigeon shoot at Highclere Castle, sponsored by the British Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association: on 13 October 2000 and 21 September 2001.34
He also attended the shooting event in November 1999, when it was sponsored by Imperial Tobacco.4

  • For details of the tobacco industry tactic to give gifts to those who could potentially influence the passage of tobacco laws, with the objective to weaken or prevent advances in tobacco control, go to Tobacco Industry Hospitality for UK Politicians.

Opposed Tobacco Control Measures in the UK

Called for Tobacco Tax Freeze

Months before attending the tobacco industry-sponsored shooting, Whittingdale called for a tobacco tax freeze in the 1999 Budget, arguing that “Labour’s policy of hiking tobacco duties every year just gives more incentive to import tobacco from abroad – legally or illegally”.5
Echoing tobacco industry arguments, Whittingdale continued “Small shop keepers are losing tens of thousands of pounds of revenue and people are losing their jobs”, adding that “Already about 15% of the market has been taken over by imported cigarettes”.
He also claimed that “the most absurd effect of Labour’s policy is that more people are smoking and the Treasury is losing revenue to the tune of £1.5billion a year”

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant link

Parliamentary biography of John Whittingdale.

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  1. MPs, Lords & Offices: Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, UK Parliament website, undated, accessed January 2018
  2. abcR. Mason, Tory and DUP MPs criticised for ‘wining and dining’ tobacco firms, The Guardian , 29 December 2017, accessed January 2018
  3. Register of Members’ Interests Current as at 14 May 2002, UK Parliament website, 14 May 2002, accessed January 2018
  4. abRegister of Members’ Interests Current as at 14 May 2001 (Dissolution), UK Parliament website, 14 May 2001, accessed January 2018
  5. UK Politics-Freeze tobacco tax-Tories, BBC News, 4 May 1999, accessed January 2018