Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association

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The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) is the trade association for tobacco companies that operate in the United Kingdom. Previously called the Tobacco Advisory Council, it was renamed the TMA in 1994.1
The TMA says that its “prime function is to represent the views of its members when communicating with the UK Government, the authorities and others on issues of shared interest and concern, including taxation, smuggling and youth access prevention.” 2 Its membership and main activities, as detailed below, show that the TMA is effectively a lobby organisation for the tobacco industry.

Tobacco Industry Members

TMA members include:

Lobbying Against Regulation of Smoking

Main Argument: The Risk of Smuggling and Counterfeiting

The TMA has used smuggling and counterfeiting as its main argument to combat the regulation of tobacco and smoking. In early 2012, for instance, the TMA blamed smuggling on high tobacco taxes, stating that “the UK’s high tobacco tax policy has provided economic incentives for criminals to meet the demand that exists for cheap tobacco products,” adding that “a disorderly market in smuggled tobacco products has been created that is uncontrolled, untaxed and unaccountable.”3
The TMA has continued to use the same arguments to fight against the point of sale display ban and proposals for the introduction of plain packaging.

Against Plain Packaging

The Association made a statement as soon as the UK government announced its initial consultation on plain packaging in 2012:

“The TMA is strongly opposed to the principle of plain packaging…We do not believe any plans for plain packaging are based on any compelling evidence or sound public policy. Plain packs would likely lead to yet further increases in the illicit trade in tobacco products by making them much easier for a counterfeiter to copy than existing branded packs. It would become even more difficult for a consumer to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit products. If illicit trade is to be effectively combated, the intellectual property rights of legitimate brands must be properly protected and enforced.”4

During the four month consultation period in 2012, the Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) (funded by the TMA) ran a postcard campaign encouraging its members to say ‘No’ to Plain Packaging. In 2013, BAT acknowledged it had used the TMA to funnel financial support for this TRA postcard campaign.5 For more info, see BAT Funded Lobbying Against Plain Packaging.
Similarly, on 26 June 2014, the same day the UK Government announced its second consultation on plain packaging, Director General of the TMA Giles Roca publicised the following statement:

“The tobacco industry supports proportionate legislation and works hard to stop under-age sales. Indeed, the industry stands ready to work with Government and health profession on measures to reduce children’s access to tobacco. However, introducing ineffective tools such as plain packaging is not the answer. We now know that plain packaging has proven not to work, with evidence from Australia showing it has resulted in an increase in illicit trade. There is also clear evidence that organised criminality would seek to take advantage of plain packaging by making it easier to bring illicit tobacco into the UK which is likely to result in more not less instances of under-age smoking.

“We therefore welcome this consultation as a further opportunity to set out the true facts and evidence around the weaknesses of plain packaging. Given the Government’s commitment to evidence-based policy making, we would urge it to consider all the facts in their entirety, before moving forward on such a decision.”6

Days before this statement was released, the Australian Government’s Department of Health released data that falsified the industry’s claims that plain packaging legislation in Australia was not working.7 See the TobaccoTactics page on Countering Industry Arguments against Plain Packaging for more detailed evidence.
Following the UK Government’s January 2015 announcement that there would be a Parliamentary vote on the policy ahead of the May 2015 General Election, the TMA said:

“We are very disappointed with the government’s decision. The evidence from Australia clearly shows that plain packaging doesn’t work, so why are they looking to move ahead with it? We hope that when it comes to the vote, MPs will realise that this is simply a flawed policy and vote no to plain packaging. Dogma has got in the way of sensible, evidence-based policy making.”8

BAT and JTI Use TMA Factsheet as ‘Evidence’ in the Consultation on Plain Packaging

In its submission to the government’s Consultation on Plain Packaging, BAT cited the TMA’s claim that “counterfeits account for 13% of the illicit market, having grown from 1% in 2004.” 9 These numbers come from a PowerPoint presentation made by TMA’s Security Liaison Manager. BAT fails to mention that 13% is an estimate, based on a TMA Empty Pack Survey (EPS) whereby discarded packs were collected and their legitimacy assessed .10
One of the other big companies, Japan Tobacco International (JTI), built an economic argument against plain packaging quoting statistics from a TMA fact sheet:

“Plain packaging will undermine any future investment and innovation by the tobacco sector in packaging, and this will have severely detrimental economic impacts on numerous service industries, including pack designers (discussed further in the paragraph below), pack manufacturers and printing and ink suppliers. To put this in context, a 2012 report estimates 66,000 jobs among suppliers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers were dependent on the UK tobacco industry.”11

Omitted from the JTI reference was the detail that the factsheet itself, ‘The Tobacco Industry in the UK’, was put together for the TMA by Cogent SSC.12

Against the Revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive

The EU TPD regulates the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products in the Member states of the EU. This includes the use of health warnings on packets, the prohibition of descriptions such as ‘mild’ or ‘light’, the maximum tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields, and the prohibition of the sale of tobacco for oral use (the latter applying to countries other than Sweden).13 The TMA expressed its “categorical opposition” to plain packaging in 2011 in its response to the public consultation on the possible revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision (TPD) in December 2010.14 At the time, the current directive had last been updated in 2001 and, amongst other policy options, the consultation asked for responses to a proposal for plain packaging.15

Against Display Bans

The TMA is also against point of sale display bans of tobacco, labelling such regulation unwanted, unjustified and unnecessary. It has said:

“a ban is unjustified as there is no credible evidence to support the government’s stated objective that a ban would reduce youth smoking. A display ban is unwanted as it would have serious unintended consequences, such as increasing illicit trade and severely impacting on small businesses. A display ban is unnecessary. The TMA agrees with the government that under-aged persons should not smoke and that they should not have access to tobacco products.”16

Lobbying via the Tobacco Retailers Alliance

One of the organisations the TMA uses to lobby is the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, a “coalition of 26,000 independent shopkeepers who all sell tobacco products” according to its website. The TMA funds the TRA so that it can “offer to all independent retailers who sell tobacco a free membership”.17
The TMA and the TRA are indeed very closely linked. Documents in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library provide some historical detail of the financial relationship between the two organisations. For example, In the financial year 2000/1 the TMA budgeted to spend £180,000 on the group, but forecasted that the actual spend would be £190,000.18 Just like TMA, the TRA “campaigns on issues of relevance to both their businesses and to the industry”.
For counter arguments to these industry points of view, see:

Opposed tobacco endgame 

The TMA reportedly lobbied against proposed tobacco endgame policies in the UK.19 For details see Tobacco Industry Interference with Endgame Policies. 

TMA and Smuggling

A Blind Eye to Tobacco Companies’ Involvement in Smuggling

In 2000, when British tobacco companies such as Gallaher and Imperial were facilitating the smuggling of billions of cigarettes, the TMA continued to argue that “Excessive taxation is the root cause of this trade and smuggling now accounts for nearly a third of cigarette consumption”.20

“Difficulties Representing the Industry”

Minutes of a TMA strategy meeting on smuggling and counterfeit, held at the time of record-level facilitation of smuggling into the UK by companies such as Imperial and Gallaher, recorded the TMA representative complaining of the “difficulties of representing the industry because of the activities of individual members”. At stake was the “credibility of the industry”. An executive from Gallaher told the meeting that the TMA “must be the public voice of member companies” and its “3 priorities are tax, tax and tax”. The document also shows that the TMA was working closely with the Tobacco Workers’ Alliance.21

“Emerging from the Dark Ages of Denial”

Other notes show that Rosemary Brook, who was assisting the TMA with public relations (PR), was in a “difficult position in that she can’t say what the companies are doing to address smuggling and their alleged complicity”. Another participant, Mike Belcher from Rothmans, noted that the companies were “emerging from ‘the dark ages of denial’ over smuggling, with Philip Morris leading the way.”22

Working with the Tobacco Alliance

Minutes of a TMA strategy meeting in February 2001 shows that the TMA discussed using the Tobacco Alliance (which was funded by the TMA) as a front organisation to lead the industry’s campaign on smuggling and counterfeit. The Alliance, represented by the public relations company PR21, was later renamed the Tobacco Retailers Alliance.
The document says that even though “independent retailers going down the pan”, the Alliance and the TMA planned a “grass roots campaign” on smuggling to “galvanise retailers” and create “lots of background noise”. The plan was to “work up” and “tool up” the retailers, and persuade them to “engage with chambers of commerce and MPs”. One proposed event was a workshop, where the industry would “manipulate the positivity” created by the debate.23


Working with Several Lobbying and PR Firms

The agenda for a meeting of the TMA’s Campaign Group, dated 5 January 2001, reveals that it worked with a large number of PR companies. The agenda was sent to the following tobacco company representatives24

It was also sent to:

Welsh Lobbyists

The TMA also used to employ a Cardiff-based company Bute Communications to lobby Welsh MPs and members of the Welsh Assembly. Bute was set up by Alun Davies, now Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes at the Welsh Assembly.25 26

Third Party Advocacy Budget

The TMA employed the PR company Beer Davies in the 1990s.27
TMA public affairs group minutes in March 1994 say: “In the short term, activities will centre on the Barron Bill, but other options to be finalised included regional media tours for Clive and myself, as well as one/two journalist seminars on tobacco-related issues.” The company was duly asked to organise a “media blitz” around the ‘Barron Bill’, a proposed ban on tobacco advertising. They were also asked to “organise a series of interviews, separately from TMA, resourced from the Third Party Advocacy Budget”.28

Lobbying Local Authorities During UK Plain Packaging Debate Period

The TMA attempted, unsuccessfully, to engage with local authorities in the UK. Local authorities refused to allow the TMA to engage with them as many have signed the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control (LGDTC). The LGDTC is a statement signed voluntarily by councils which affirms existing national and international commitments, particularly the specifications in Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which states:

“In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.” 29

Not to be deterred in its attempt to gain access to local authority discussions about illicit tobacco, the TMA commissioned a legal opinion which was then used to lobby local authorities as an argument for engagement. Director General of the TMA, Giles Roca sent letters to local councils enclosing the legal opinion.
Roca argued:

“The tobacco industry in the UK has traditionally had a productive and constructive relationship with local government working in partnership to tackle issues such as counterfeit and illicit tobacco, under age sales and the issue of litter from tobacco products. As you will be aware, these are areas where local government have statutory responsibilities…”

“I am now writing to you regarding the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control (LGDTC) to which a number of councils are signatories and its interpretation by some in local government. You may be aware that the Declaration is an entirely voluntary code that is loosely drafted on Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

“However, we are concerned that some local authorities have, citing the LGDTC, sought to sever all links with the industry, even where there have been clear examples of worthwhile and effective joint working in the past, believing that this measure prohibits any dealings with the tobacco industry whatsoever.”

“This is incorrect. The TMA has now taken Counsel’s Opinion about what duties the LGDTC do or do not place on local authorities…Article 5.3 and the LGDTC do not in any way recommend or require local authorities to sever links with the tobacco industry or to cease partnership working.”30

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. TMA, Memorandum by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, Commons Select Committee on Health website, 6 March 2000, accessed 10 February 2012
  2. abTMA, About us, TMA website, undated, accessed 31 January 2012
  3. TMA, Tobacco smuggling and cross border shopping, undated, accessed 31 January 2012
  4. Ben McArdle, TMA responds to the planned consultation on plain packaging, TMA website, 16 December 2011, accessed January 2012
  5. Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 20 May 2013
  6. TMA2014, TMA responds to the Government’s launch of the plain packaging consultation, TMA, 26 June 2014, accessed June 2014
  7. augov, Tobacco Key Facts and Figures, Australin Government Department of Health, 19 June 2014, accessed June 2014
  8. P. Stockhall, TMA responds to plain packaging decision, Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, 22 January 2015, accessed February 2015
  9. BAT, UK_submission.pdf Standarisded Packaging Consultation, Response of British American Tobacco UK Ltd, 8 August 2012, p.52, accessed August 2013
  10. Fenton, B. QGM, Security Liaison Manager, “Sizing the non-duty paid market, Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, 2011, accessed August 2013
  11. JTI, Response to the Department of Health’s Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, 3 July 2012, p. 52, accessed August 2013
  12. TMA, The UK Tobacco Sector, 2012, accessed August 2013, available via Employment
  13. The full text of the 2001 TPD can be found here Directive 2001/37/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2001 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products – Commission statement, accessed February 2012
  14. TMA Website, Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association’s complete response to the public consultation on the possible revision of the Tobacco Products Directive 2001/37/EC, 17 December 2010, accessed 3 June 2011
  15. European Union website, Public consultation on the possible revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive 2001/37/EC, undated, also see the EU Public Consultation Document, 2010, accessed 3 June 2011
  16. TMA, Display Bans, TMA Website, accessed January 2012
  17. Tobacco Retailers Alliance, About the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, undated, accessed 23 January 2012
  18. TMA, Statement to Accompany Account Submitted to TMA Board of Directors, 20 February 2001, accessed 23 January 2012
  19. D. Parsley, R. Vaughan, Revealed: Big Tobacco’s campaign to block Rishi Sunak’s smoking banThe i, 1 December 2023, accessed December 2023
  20. TMA, Counterfeit Cigarettes, 6 December 2000, Bates no:325132599, accessed January 2012
  21. TMA, TMA strategy meeting, undated, Bates No: 325133543, accessed 23 January 2012
  22. TMA, Note regarding TMA, Undated, Bates No:325133545-325133547, accessed January 2012
  23. TMA,TMA strategy meeting, 6 February 2001, Bates No:325133549-325133553, accessed 23 January 2012
  24. TMA, Campaign Group Meeting on 11th January 2001, 5 January 2001, Bates No:325133635-325133636, Accessed 20 January 2012
  25. Daniel Davies, ‘Our man said sorry for fans clash, says Labour’, Wales online, 11 April 2005, accessed 20 January 2012
  26. Welsh Government Website, Alun Davies AM, 3 November 2011, accessed 20 January 2012
  27. TMA, Public Smoking Working Group, 22 March 1994, accessed 23 January 2012
  28. TMA, Public Affairs Programme – Status Report, 31 March 1994, Bates No:502581028-502581031, accessed 23 January 2012
  29. World Health Organization, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, 2008, accessed March 2015
  30. TMA. Standard format letter to local authorities. 2015