Patrick Basham

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Patrick Basham is the director of the London and Washington based think tank the Democracy Institute.1

Basham was also the founding director of the Social Affairs Center at the tobacco industry funded Fraser Institute in Canada and former Adjunct Scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute.2 He has also claimed to hold a doctorate in Political Economy from the University of Cambridge; a 2015 commentary on an article Basham had published in 2008 in BMJ revealed that he had not received the degree.3

Basham, whose most frequent publications focus on tobacco, alcohol and obesity, has a history of pro-tobacco work.2 Some of his work is also profiled on the Fraser Institute‘s page.

Pro-Tobacco Work

Downplaying Risks of Second-Hand Smoke

In April 1999, Basham praised a book written by John Luik, with whom he has had a long association, and Gio Gori. The book, Passive Smoke: The EPA’s Betrayal of Science and Policy, attempted to downplay the risk of second-hand smoke. It accused “the EPA of corrupting science to engage in a campaign of public disinformation”. Basham said:

“Given the current move among Canadian municipalities, such as Victoria, to enact stringent anti-smoking bylaws, we need to look carefully at what science, not conjecture, is really telling us about the dangers of second-hand smoke.”4

Later that year in August, the Fraser Institute invited “leading scientists, public-policy experts, and journalists to meet to debate the costs and benefits of tobacco regulation”. Basham argued the Institute was interested in the issue to defend people’s right “to trade longevity knowingly for pleasure”.5

Against Display Bans and Further Controls on Tobacco

In 2009, John Luik and Basham wrote a report attacking tobacco display bans, published by the Democracy Institute.6

In March 2011, Patrick Basham was one of 11 signatories of a Letter to the Editor in the Daily Telegraph attacking the UK Government’s position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.7

The previous year, Basham wrote a discussion paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs, entitled “Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons”, in which he concluded: “the empirical evidence does not demonstrate that tobacco display bans have reduced smoking prevalence or consumption in the four countries where they have been instituted: Canada, Iceland, Ireland, and Thailand. In this sense, display bans appear to be – like so many other tobacco control policies – highly ineffective”.8

The discussion paper was criticised by Cancer Research UK, which argued that Basham’s paper had various “general weaknesses”, namely that:

  • It did not disclose Patrick Basham’s longstanding links with the tobacco industry.
  • Neither the paper, nor the evidence it relied on, was published in peer-reviewed journals.
  • It had “internal inconsistencies in which factors are considered or discounted in different countries”.
  • The report contained “selective evidence” that “undermined claims about the effects of a display ban”, such as “the arguments in favour of removing displays of tobacco in shops are incompletely covered as they ignore the key point that displays are recognised by WHO (and marketers) as a form of advertising”.9

Against Health Warnings

Writing in July 2011, Patrick Basham and John Luik argued that graphic health warnings on cigarettes did not work, calling them a “complete and utter policy failure”.10

Against Plain Packaging

In November 2011, Basham sent a letter to the Financial Times, reiterating the industry argument that plain packaging “will not stop young people smoking”. Basham argued that “the actual evidence in support of the plain packaging of cigarettes is embarrassingly thin. Most studies show that plain packaging will have no statistically significant effect on youth smoking”.11

Against World Health Organization

In July 2020, Basham authored an article in Tobacco Reporter, “A Costly Failure: How The WHO Lost U.S. Funding”. Basham argued that WHO had lost its U.S. funding in part due to its opposition to tobacco industry funded COVID-19 vaccine candidates.12

Industry Events

Basham presented at TabExpo 2011 in Prague.13 Basham also attended the event, which is held every four years, in 201514 and 2019.15

He was also a speaker at the 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum, an annual tobacco industry event.

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Democracy Institute, About Us, website, accessed November 2020
  2. abCato Institute, Patrick Basham, website, accessed November 2020
  3. D. Miller, Rapid Response: Re: Is the obesity epidemic exaggerated? Yes, BMJ, 16 April 2015
  4. Canada Newswire, Media Advisory – Are the dangers of second hand smoke second hand science?, 20 April 1999, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, id: kgbj0060
  5. The Fraser Insitute, Public Policy Sources #40: Preface, 8 July 1999, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, id: njmf0205
  6. P. Basham, J. Luik, Displaying Their Ignorance on Smoking, Cato Institute website, April 2009, accessed November 2020
  7. P. Basham, E. Butler, D. Edmunds, H. Evans, T. Evans, D. Hamilton, A. Harbutt, T. Knox, M. Littlewood, M. Sinclair, S. Richards, Enemies of enterprise seek controls on tobacco, Letter to the editor, The Telegraph, 9 March 2011, accessed November 2020
  8. P. Basham, Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons, IEA Discussion Paper No. 29, IEA website, July 2010, accessed November 2020
  9. Cancer Research UK, A response by Cancer Research UK to Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons by Patrick Basham Institute of Economic Affairs Discussion Paper 29,, undated, accessed November 2020
  10. P. Basham, J. Luik, Dr. Patrick Basham: Tobacco’s Graphic Warning for the Gambling Industry,, 15 July 2011, accessed November 2020
  11. P. Basham, Plain packaging will not stop young people smoking, Letter to the Financial Times, 24 November 2011, accessed November 2020 (paywall)
  12. P. Basham, A Costly Failure: How The WHO Lost U.S. Funding, Tobacco Reporter, 1 July 2020, accessed November 2020
  13. Staff Report, Strong Line Up, Tobacco Reporter, July 2011, accessed October 2011
  14. S. Clark, TabExpo at London’s ExCel, Taking Liberties blog, 23 October 2015, accessed November 2020
  15. High Demand, vaporvoice, 25 February 2020, accessed November 2020