Point of Sale Display Ban

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Covert Campaign Exposed

In May 2011 British American Tobacco admitted funding a high profile campaign by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), an industry group, against a government ban on cigarette displays in shops.1
The NFRN claimed that the ban would put thousands of small shopkeepers out of business.
In a letter to Labour MP Kevin Barron, BAT said: “We have provided financial assistance to the NFRN in relation to this campaign.” It also confirmed that its lobbying company Hume Brophy attended meetings between BAT and the federation to discuss the campaign.
Only a few days earlier, a BAT spokesman had told The Guardian newspaper that the allegations were untrue. “To accuse us of underhand tactics and the funding of an independent retailer organisation (the NFRN), via a PR agency that we use solely for work related to the European wide problem of tobacco smuggling, is untrue,” he said.2
Hume Brophy emailed MPs and told them that the ban would have a “devastating effect on the small business sector in your constituency”. More than 80 MPs pledged their support for the campaign, and smaller shops were subsequently exempted from the ban on behind-the-counter displays for 18 months.
Under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the UK government is obliged to ensure that tobacco control measures are free from tobacco industry influence. Barron reportedly wrote to the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, warning the government’s commitment to tobacco control was “being undermined by covert lobbying by the tobacco industry”.3

“It’s Curtains”

In December 2011, it was revealed that government guidance notes on the Point of Sale Display (POSD) ban had conceded that retailers would be allowed to hide cigarettes behind curtains when the ban came into law in 2015. The National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which had been part of Philip Morris‘ PR campaign against the ban, and had been funded by BAT on this issue, saw this as a key victory. The NFRN’s National President, Kieran McDonnell said: “There are key concessions that retailers can be proud that their campaign has guaranteed.” 4

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  1. Jamie Doward, ‘British American Tobacco admits funding campaign against display ban’, The Observer, 28 May 2011, accessed 9 June 2011
  2. Denis Campbell, ‘BAT denies allegations that it funded anti-tobacco ban lobby’, The Guardian, 27 April 2011, accessed 14 July 2011
  3. Jamie Doward, ‘British American Tobacco admits funding campaign against display ban’, The Observer, 28 May 2011, accessed 9 June 2011
  4. Retail Newsagent, “It’s curtains for English display ban-hit shops”, 30 December 2011, p5