Luther Pendragon

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Lobbying Against Plain Packaging

After the public consultation of plain packaging finished in the summer of 2012, the PR and lobbying company, Luther Pendragon, was hired by Philip Morris to try and create a grass roots rebellion amongst MPs against the proposals.
The official lobbying register for the Association of Professional Political Consultants shows that Luther Pendragon started working for Philip Morris sometime between 1 June and 31 August 2012. 1
Soon after this date, Nick Corrin from the lobbying company started approaching trading standards officials and political leaders around the country, from the North East to the South West.
A text of one letter sent to a trading standards officer stated:

I’m currently doing some work for Philip Morris, the tobacco company, around the Government’s proposals to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes, and the effects that this might have on local businesses and communities. Most notably, we think this will lead to a significant increase in counterfeiting and so will harm the sales of legitimate retailers, and produce a number of knock-on effects. We aren’t against their objective but don’t think this will achieve their aims.

The letter continued:

We are talking to lots of community and business leaders and influencers across the country and it would be greatly appreciated if we could meet with yourself, or another representative of the council, to discuss the issue.2

In a follow up letter to a Trading Standards officer, Corrin asked the recipient to write to their local MPs suggesting a delay in the plain packaging implementation to see what happens in Australia 3

Is It Ethical to Work for Health and Tobacco at Same Time?

In February 2013, the medical journal The Lancet published a letter condemning Luther Pendragon’s work for Philip Morris and called on the Department of Health to sever all ties with the PR company:

Public relations companies might take their own view of what they regard as ethical, but it would clearly be unacceptable for any health-care organisation to engage with a company that is simultaneously working to oppose public health legislation. We therefore call on all health-care organisations, and especially the UK Department of Health, to send out a clear message by severing any links they have with public relations companies that work to promote the interests of the tobacco industry.4

Big Pharma Drops Luther

One organisation to drop Luther Pendragon in light of its work for Philip Morris was the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI). According to industry journal PR Week: “The ABPI has gone public with a statement saying that it served notice on Luther Pendragon in December after learning the agency had decided to take on the account.” 5

Philip Morris Drops Luther

In February 2013, it was announced that, a week after The Lancet letter, Luther Pendragon was no longer working for Philip Morris. 6
When asked to comment on its work for the tobacco giant, Nick Corrin declined, saying it was “inappropriate to talk about client activities”. 7

Lobbying Against the TPD in Brussels

Luther Pendragon is also working for the European Retailers and Tobacconists Association (CEDT) against the Tobacco Products Directive. In an e-mail sent to dozens of Brussels-based EU affairs journalists, the lobbying company promoted a protest action of tobacco retailers in several EU countries, offering to arrange interviews and providing pictures to illustrate press articles.
On 7 September 2012, Oliver Kaye from Luther’s Brussels office wrote:

On behalf the CEDT – the European retailers and tobacconist association I am writing to let you know about protests involving 1000s of retailers that have been taking place in several European countries. Retailers have been protesting across Europe against imminent proposal due this quarter from the Commission which is set to ban tobacco displays in shops and to introduce plain packaging on cigarette packs.

Events are taking place in Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Austria and Poland involving 1000s of retailers. Actions include retailers creating a “point of sale display ban” by coving up their shop displays using cloth and slogans in several countries, letters sent to national heads of state or government, meetings with political personalities, a press conference in the vicinity of the Polish president’s house.

Kaye included a press release and said that he could attach “are a couple of photos from Italy, Spain and France to give you a visual idea of what is happening.”
CEDT’s Italian member Federazione Italiana Tabaccai (FIT) later boasted that the demonstration was “un grande successo” (a big success). 8
In January 2013, the tobacconists again marched against the TPD, with between 2,200 -3,300 people taking part. “Brussels is hitting at official distribution networks while nothing is done against smuggling”, said the deputy head of the European Confederation of Tobacco Retailers (CEDT), Pascal Montredon, who heads the French branch. 9

Other TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. APPC, APPC Register Entry for 1 June 2012 to 31 August 2012
  2. Nick Corrin, Letter to Trading Standards Officer, 2012
  3. Nick Corrin, Email, November 2012
  4. Nicholas S Hopkinson, John Moxham, Hugh Montgomery, Robert West, Gabriel Scally, Martin McKee, Stephen Spiro, Andrew Bush, John Stradling, Athol Wells, Kian Fan Chung, Stephen R Durham, Finbarr C Martin, Jo Congleton, Elin Roddy, Mark Dayer, Patrick White, Philip W Ind, Joanna L Brown, Irem Patel, Keir Lewis, Nicholas Hart, Samuel Kemp, Jack Barker, Matthew Hind, David Nicholl, Myra Stern, Sarah Elkin, Tobacco industry lobbyists and their health-care clients, The Lancet, Volume 381, Issue 9865, Page 445, 9 February 2013
  5. Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith and Daniel Farey-Jones, Luther Pendragon dropped by ABPI over tobacco client, PR Week, 7 February 2013,
  6. Lynsey Barber, “Luther Pendragon no longer working with Philip Morris”, PR Week, 11 February 2013
  7. Nick Corrin, Phone Conversation, March 2013
  8. Corporate Europe Observatory, Mapping the tobacco lobby in Brussels: a smoky business, 6 November 2012
  9. Associated France Press, Europe’s tobacconists march against EU smoking crackdown, 23 January 2013