Plain Packaging in the UK: Tobacco Industry Funded Third Party Campaigns

This page was last edited on at

In response to plain packaging proposals in the UK, the tobacco industry utilised the third party technique. It funded third party organisations which conducted anti-plain packaging campaigns on its behalf, commissioned research, expert opinion and public relations activities which supported its position, and built alliances with organisations that lobbied the UK Government and mobilised public opposition to plain packaging proposals.


The following organisations, which are either fully or part-funded by tobacco companies, have conducted coordinated campaigns to mobilise opposition to plain packaging in the UK. Click on the hyperlinked organisations for more detailed information on both the organisation and its activities in opposition of plain packaging.

Organisation & Campaign Funder Activities
Forest, Hands Off Our Packs (HOOPs) British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Tobacco (IMT) and Gallaher (A member of the Japan Tobacco Group) provides almost all of Forest’s funding.1 Submitted a petition of 214,653 signatures to the 2012 UK Consultation on plain packaging and 55,201 standardised postcards. HOOPs campaign staff were accused of falsifying, and using questionable methods to acquire signatures.2 Forest’s anti-plain packaging campaigns were supported by The Free Society,3 an organisation established by Forest to campaign against ‘government interference’.4 Anti-plain packaging opinion pieces were published on their website5 and in Spiked magazine.6
Forest, Say No to Plain Packs BAT, IMT and Gallaher provides almost all of Forest’s funding.7
Forest, No, Prime Minister BAT, IMT and Gallaher provides almost all of Forest’s funding.8 In June 2014, in anticipation of the UK’s second consultation on the policy, Forest launched a 72-hour online advertising drive of the ‘NO, Prime Minister’ campaign across the political advertising network MessageSpace.9
Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA), Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) ‘No to Plain Packs’ Postcard Campaign BAT, IMT and Gallaher wholly funds the TMA.10 which wholly owns the TRA.11 BAT provided extra funding for the postcard campaign.12 ‘No to plain packs’ postcards were distributed to retailers who were then encouraged to submit them to the UK’s 2012 consultation – 26,530 were received by the Department of Health13 and a further 10,001 were received in the second consultation in 2014.14
Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) Discloses that it has “some tobacco manufacturers/suppliers amongst our wide range of associates and retail members.”15 PMI paid for two Populus surveys of PRA’s members.1617 Throughout the debate, the PRA mobilised its members in opposition of plain packaging, including asking its members to lobby their MPs and by conducting two PMI-funded polls of its members. These found that, in 2012, 65% of PRA members believed “plain packaging for tobacco products would negatively impact their businesses” increasing to 73% in 2014. PMI’s leaked anti-plain packaging strategy identified the PRA as a third-party media messenger that it planned to utilise.18
Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA), ‘Plain Nonsense’ campaign BAT, IMT, JTI are members.19 Submitted 2,865 standardised postcards to the 2012 Consultation in addition to a detailed response. Also submitted a detailed response to the second consultation in the summer of 2014 20 and sent a letter to the Chantler Review of the evidence for plain packaging in January 2014, arguing that plain packaging would increase the illicit tobacco trade.21
National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) BAT funded an NFRN campaign against the Point of Sale Display ban in 2011.22 and in its 2012 consultation submission the NFRN said that tobacco companies were members.23 However, in its response to the second consultation in 2014, it claimed complete financial independence from the industry despite working with tobacco companies, the TMA and the TRA,24 and the NFRN’s wholly owned arms-length subsidiary NFRN Commercial Ltd maintaining commercial relationships with tobacco companies amounting to approximately £30,000.25 Following the Government’s January 2015 announcement that it would soon vote on draft regulations the NFRN encouraged retailers to contact their MPs to tell them that the policy would harm their businesses. Furthermore, approximately 70 members of the NFRN attended an anti-plain packaging rally at the House of Commons on 11 February 2015.2627
The Common Sense Alliance BAT financially supported the Alliance.28 The Alliance urged supporters to contact their local MPs to speak out about policies such as plain packaging and provided a link to the ‘Write to them’ webpage. Their tagline was “Common Sense, not Nonsense”. Two of the founding members of the Alliance, ex-senior police officers Peter Sheridan and Roy Ramm sent a letter in opposition of the policy that was discussed in some length at the inquiry on the European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) held by the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, Health and Education.29 The letter did not disclose the BAT link.

TobaccoTactics Resources

TCRG Research

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Forest, Frequently asked questions: Who funds you?, cached August 2016
  2. Department of Health, FOI release – correspondence about the Government’s consultation on the packaging of tobacco products, 13 September 2012, accessed September 2012
  3. B. Monteith, Brian Monteith to be new editor of The Free Society, The Free Society, 21 August 2013
  4. The Free Society, The battle against Big Government – join the debate!, 19 May 2010 (accessed Sept 2016)
  5. T. Miers, Design-a-pack, The Free Society, 6 September 2012
  6. M. Cullip, The dangers of government gore, Spiked, 30 October 2012 (accessed Sept 2016)
  7. After its HOOPs petition campaign, in February 2013, Forest launched a new webpage encouraging individuals to send a pre-composed email to their local MP in opposition of plain packaging.30Forest, Email your MP about plain packaging, HOOPs webpage, 11 February 2013, accessed September 2016
  8. Following the release of the Chantler Report in March 2014, Forest launched yet another website No, Prime Minister, which sent a pre-composed letter directly to the Prime Minister rather than the local MP.31Forest, Say No to plain packaging of tobacco,2014, Cached March 2016
  9. Forest, Forest Launches Online Ad Campaign Against Plain Packaging, 10 June 2014, cached April 2015
  10. TMA, Transparency Statement, 2013, cached April 2016
  11. Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance, About the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance, accessed August 2016
  12. S. Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 20 May 2013
  13. Department of Health, Consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products: Summary Report, July 2013, accessed August 2016
  14. Department of Health, Consultation on the introduction of regulations for standardised packaging of tobacco products: Summary report, February 2015, accessed August 2016
  15. PRA, Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry: Tobacco Smuggling; Written Evidence submitted by the Petrol Retailers Association, August 2013, cached April 2015
  16. PRA, Thousands of small, independent petrol stations call on the Government to scrap ‘onerous and ill-considered’ regulation, Retail Motor Industry, 27 November 2012, cached August 2016
  17. PRA, PRA urges Government not to rush ahead with plain packaging before properly reviewing all evidence, Retail Motor Industry, 3 April 2014, cached August 2014
  18. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update, February 2012, Leaked in 2013
  19. SWA, Supplier Members, cached April 2016
  20. SWA, Standardised packaging of tobacco products draft regulations: Pdf 6 – response of SWA,Department of Health, accessed August 2016
  21. K. Salmon, Letter to Cyril Chantler, 9 January 2014
  22. D. Campbell, BAT admits bankrolling newsagents’ tobacco campaign, The Guardian, 28 April 2011, accessed August 2016
  23. NFRN, Consultation response on standardised packaging of tobacco, 10 August 2012, accessed August 2016
  24. NFRN, Response to Consultation on the introduction of regulations for standardised packaging of tobacco products, 2014, Department of Health uploads, accessed August 2016
  25. In 2012 the NFRN promoted the TRA postcard campaign. Six members of the NFRN submitted similar letters of opposition to the first Government consultation. It also made a submission to the consultation citing industry arguments against plain packaging. When the second consultation was announced, the NFRN released a statement urging MPs not to pass plain packaging regulations in the UK.32NFRN, NFRN is urging MPs to reject the new plain packaging regulations which were published for consultation today (26 June), 26 June 2014, cached September 2014
  26. J. Lenane, NFRN members rally against plain packaging in Westminster, 20 February 2015, cached March 2016
  27. Hansard, Standardised Packaging (Tobacco Products), House of Commons Debates, 21 January 2015, accessed February 2015
  28. UK Department of Health, Letter from Peter Sheridan to Tobacco Programme Manager, UK Department for Health, 15 April 2013, accessed July 2014
  29. House of Lords, Unrevised transcript of evidence taken before The Select Committee on the European Union Home Affairs, Health and Education Committee, Inquiry on Tobacco Products Directive, 13 March 2013, accessed September 2016