Letter to the Editor

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A letter to the editor published in The Telegraph on 9 March 2011 1 attacked the British Government’s proposed changes to the Point of Sale Display Ban as well as Plain Packaging.
On the surface, it was signed by 11 independent think tanks and other organisations that were being critical of Government smoking and health policy. However, some of the organisations involved have either previously taken tobacco industry money, or have a history of defending the industry. Their financial links or connections were not disclosed to the public. Nor were the intricate links between several key signatories.
The letter was published on No Smoking Day 2011, the day the British government announced its new proposed regulations. It contained arguments persistently used by the tobacco industry. It is a classic case of repeated Arguments and Language outlining the following industry points:

  • Ridicule government plans
  • Rail against regulation
  • Picture the state as the enemy of the industry and free enterprise in general
  • Defend the interests of small retailers
  • Point at the risk of increased smuggling
  • Undermine the credibility of the government.

The Letter

The letter to the Telegraph stated:

Enemies of enterprise seek controls on tobacco

SIR — Today, smokers are asked to observe No Smoking Day. They may also finally get to hear Government proposals that could ban the display of tobacco products in retail outlets, and only allow tobacco to be sold in plain, state-prescribed packaging.

If the Coalition is committed to defeating the enemies of enterprise, as David Cameron, the Prime Minister, claims, a good start would be to call a halt to the relentless campaign to “denormalise” smoking through an endless barrage of new controls, directives and diktats.

Mr Cameron claimed last week that he would wage war on bureaucrats who concoct ridiculous rules and regulations. Banning the branding of tobacco products or making cigarettes an under-the-counter product would be yet another victory for these very bureaucrats. Life would become more difficult for newsagents and tobacconists and easier for the providers of illicit tobacco to pass off their wares as legitimate.

We cannot yet be sure about whether the Prime Minister’s commitment to combating regulation and red tape is truly serious. If his Government now unveils proposals to further restrict the sale and purchase of tobacco, it will be a clear sign that his new commitment to enterprise is little more than political rhetoric.

*Patrick Basham, Director, Democracy Institute

*Dr Eamonn Butler Director, Adam Smith Institute

*Donna Edmunds, Director of Research, Progressive Vision

*Dr Helen Evans, Director, Nurses for Reform

*Dr Tim Evans, Chairman, Economic Policy Centre

*Daniel Hamilton, Director, Big Brother Watch

*Angela Harbutt, Executive Director, Liberal Vision

*Tim Knox, Acting Director, Centre for Policy Studies

*Mark Littlewood, Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs

*Matthew Sinclair, Director, The TaxPayers’ Alliance

*Simon Richards, Director, The Freedom Association

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