Privacy International

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Privacy International (PI) is a civil liberties campaign group that argues it protects “people against intrusion by governments and corporations that seek to erode this fragile right”. It says: “We believe that privacy forms part of the bedrock of freedoms, and our goal has always been to use every means to preserve it”.1
It has six staff, eight trustees and an advisory board of 124 people from 47 countries.2
PI also produces “information and recommendations for governments, corporations, the media and the public in order to clarify critical issues and help build the foundation for action”.

Links to the Tobacco Industry

In June 2011, PI published a report on smoking and privacy, produced and paid for “at the request” of pro-smoking group Forest.3 It was written by PI Director Simon Davies. The foreword was written by Joe Jackson, a musician and writer who is a columnist for The Free Society.4 Photography and design was by Dan Donovan, whose clients include The Free Society.5 The report does not seem to appear on Privacy International’s website however, only on the Forest website.
The research “does not address the health aspects of tobacco smoking, nor does it ‘take sides’ on what has become a controversial aspect of public policy management. Instead the paper focuses on the privacy and civil liberties implications arising from the regulation of tobacco use generally.”

Repeating Industry Arguments

The report employed some of the same arguments and language that the industry uses against tighter regulation.
In his foreword, Joe Jackson accused “health authorities and lobby groups, lavishly funded by governments and pharmaceutical companies” of exaggerating health risks and of spreading “fear and intolerance on the basis of the most atrocious junk science”. He continued:

The worst example of this is the myth that ‘second hand smoke kills’, which does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

The industry itself has for many years claimed that the risks of second hand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), are exaggerated and based on “junk science”. Many doctors, governments and anti-smoking groups dispute the claim that the health risk from second hand smoke is a myth or based on ‘junk science’, pointing to much scientific evidence.
Simon Davies’ introduction says: “In establishing regulation, governments must strive to avoid an unintended own goal that invites negative and damaging consequences”. This is a classic anti-regulation argument long used by the industry, such as by:

  • British American Tobacco: “Care is needed to avoid ineffectual laws with unintended consequences”.6
  • Imperial Tobacco: “Tobacco control policies such as display bans or plain packaging can also have significant unintended and perverse consequences… It is our view that a ban on vending would create other unintended unfortunate consequences…”7
  • Philip Morris: “Proponents of these measures (plain packaging and display bans) also ignore the potential unintended consequences that would likely result, particularly a decrease in prices and an increase in illicit trade, both of which undermine public health objectives”.8

The report also cited a study by another civil liberties watchdog, Big Brother Watch, whose director Daniel Hamilton worked with Imperial’s public relations company, Bell Pottinger, to try to undermine a key anti-tobacco health campaign in the South West of England.9

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  1. Privacy International, About Privacy International, undated, accessed 8 February 2012
  2. Figures correct at 8 February 2012, Staff, accessed 8 February 2012. The advisory board increased from 90 people in 40 countries between June 2011 and 8 February 2012
  3. Simon Davies, Civil liberties: up in smoke, Privacy International, June 2011, accessed 11 June 2011
  4. The Free Society, The Free Society: Joe Jackson, undated, accessed 13 June 2011
  5., The works, undated, accessed 13 June 2011
  6. Michael Prideaux, BAT director of corporate and regulatory affairs, quoted by Catherine Boyle in ‘Imperial Tobacco chief rejects regulations’, The Times, 9 September 2008
  7. Imperial Tobacco Group and Imperial Tobacco UK, Joint submission to the Department of Health Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control, September 2008, accessed 9 June 2011
  8. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Louis C. Camilleri, Remarks for 2009 Annual Shareholders Meeting by Louis C. Camilleri, Philip Morris website, 5 May 2009, accessed 13 June 2011
  9. Daniel Hamilton