The Campaign Against Tobacco Control Funding

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The tobacco industry and its allies have long campaigned to neutralise their opponents by cutting off their funding, especially public funds.

Attacking ASH and others

In recent years, there has been a concerted campaign by pro-smoking groups linked to Forest to attack the public funding of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and other tobacco control organisations.

In June 2009, The TaxPayers’ Alliance, which does not disclose its funding, criticised the practice of taxpayers’ money funding a number of organisations, including ASH.1

A year later, after Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, had pledged to prevent local authorities and quangos employing external public relations consultants to lobby government, Forest published a report it had commissioned on the public funding of ASH, No Smoking Day, the Regional Smoke Free Organisations, as well as the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies network, including the University of Bath. Although commissioned by Forest, the organisation did not list its name as publisher, and the report was also unauthored.2

Simon Clark, the director of Forest wrote about the report on the Conservative Home website, arguing that “The state should stop giving anti-smoking groups public money to lobby the Government”.3

The report was then picked up by the pro-smoking, libertarian groups including the Adam Smith Institute, The Institute of Economic Affairs and the TaxPayers Alliance, creating an “echo chamber” of criticism:

None of the groups criticising the public funding of tobacco control declared whether they had received tobacco industry funding.

Other groups that work closely with Forest have returned to this theme, including Big Brother Watch (a campaign of The TaxPayers’ Alliance); and Liberal Vision.8

Attacking SmokeFree South West’s Funding

In January 2102, SmokeFree South West was one of various groups involved in the launch of the Plain Packs Protects Campaign. Soon after, all 14 Primary Care Trusts that fund SmokeFree South West started receiving FOI requests. See FOI: SmokeFree South West.

In April 2012, the tobacco-industry funded Hands Off Our Packs campaign attacked SmokeFree South West for using “public money to lobby government on plain packaging”.9

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  1. Matthew Sinclair, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, The TaxPayers Alliance
  2. Forest, “Government Lobbying Government” – The Case of the UK Tobacco Control Industry, October 2010, accessed August 2021
  3. Simon Clark, Simon Clark: The state should stop giving anti-smoking groups public money to lobby the Government, Conservative Home, 27 October 2010, accessed July 2022
  4. Angela Harbutt, Time to bin ASH before it trashes another part of the economy, Liberal Vision, 25 October 2010
  5. Sam Bowman, The anti-smoking boondoggle, 27 October 2010, accessed December 2018
  6. Mark Littlewood, Coalition Should Stop Funding Anti-Smoking Groups, 28 October 2010, accessed February 2012
  7. Matthew Sinclair, Lots more taxpayer funded politics, 28 October 2010, accessed November 2010
  8. Angela Harbutt, ASH abuse of public money must end, 22 June 2011, accessed July 2011
  9. Hands Off Our Packs, Public money used to lobby government on plain packaging, 2 April 2012, accessed October 2015