PMI's Anti-Plain Packaging Lobbying Campaign
Leaked documents from Philip Morris International (PMI) reveal the extent of a multifaceted public relations campaign against Plain Packaging in the UK, including a highly detailed media campaign and detailed political analysis of the best ways to prevent the implementation of the policy.
- See below for links to other pages on the leaked PM documents.
Political Mapping and Analysis
PMI mapped the geographic location of Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet members, Ministers and Private Secretaries. The company predicted what would happen if MPs voted on plain packs along party lines or whether they had a “free” vote on the issue. They then analysed and mapped out the whole legislative process, including which key government committees and Departments would be used during the legislative process. One slide noted how “Multiple Government and Stakeholder Engagement” was required.
One instructive slide has British Prime Minister David Cameron at the centre, surrounded by his formal / informal advisers on the circle outside and then “influencers” on the next circle. This includes government departments as well as key NGOs, think tanks, unions and business groups on both sides of the plain packaging debate. The groups likely to oppose plain packaging legislation included:
- CBI – Confederation of British Industry;
- ICC – International Chamber of Commerce;
- IEA –Institute of Economic Affairs;
- IoD – Institute of the Directors;
- ITMA – Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (now known as CITMA);
- BBG – British Brands Group;
- TPA – The TaxPayers' Alliance;
- ECTA – European Communities Trademark Association;
- ACG – Anti-Counterfeiting Group;
- BASCAP – Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy;
- INTA – International Trade Mark Association;
- BRC – British Retail Consortium;
- ACS – Association of Convenience Stores;
- AITS – Association of Independent Tobacco Specialists;
The Government Affairs Work-Stream
Given that the UK is a signatory to Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which should prevent tobacco industry influence over public health measures, it is significant that PMI’s Government Affairs Work Stream talked about “direct engagement” with “cross-functional” institutions, as well as “backbenchers”.
The company argued that Parliamentary events were needed to be held on illicit trade too.
PMI also outlined “indirect engagement” through the company’s third parties such as Intellectual Property organisations, business, suppliers, retail groups and international organisations.
There was a need for the company or its consultants to undertake “tactical research by constituency / geographic region” as well as for commissioning a survey by the leading political intelligence company, Dods.
The documents also suggest that PMI had drafted a political motion, probably an Early Day Motion, arguing that plain packaging would “represent an invitation to counterfeiting”, which would “not address the issue of youth smoking but will risk a number of adverse consequences”.
It does not seem that a motion using this language was ever placed.
Identification of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
PMI identified third-party partnerships, international engagement and evidence-based arguments centred around Better Regulation principles as the strengths of its anti-plain packaging strategy.
It also identified opportunities that may arise from this strategy, including an improved business footprint in the UK and political engagement and outreach at senior levels.
The company also outlined what is thought were the weaknesses to its campaign, including “significant TCA [tobacco control association] pressure” with the “industry reputation” and “limited engagement opportunities” being singled out as areas of concern.
Other TobaccoTactic Resources
- Plain Packaging Opposition in the UK: 2012 Consultation
- BAT Funded Lobbying Against Plain Packaging
- Letter to the Editor
More on the Leaked Philip Morris Documents and the confidential lobby campaigns to derail Plain Packaging proposals:
- PMI Mobilised Support from Retailers
- PMI’s “Illicit Trade” Anti-Plain Packaging Campaign
- PMI’s Anti-PP Media Campaign
- PMI’s Lobbying Campaign to Undermine the TPD
- Will O’Reilly
Indepth analysis of the leaked PMI documents by Corporate Europe Observatory:
- Looking back at the tobacco lobbying battle: Philip Morris' allies in the European Parliament, Michael Hörz, May 2014.