Adam Smith Institute

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The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) calls itself “the UK’s leading libertarian think tank”. It says that it “engineers policies to increase Britain’s economic competitiveness, inject choice into public services, and create a freer, more prosperous society”.1 The free-market think tank promotes strong visions against regulation of smoking; in June 2013, it was found to accept money from the tobacco industry.2 In 2016, the Adam Smith Institute was rated “highly opaque” by watchdog group Transparify, which campaigns for more disclosure of think tank funding, and one of only 4 think tanks of the 200 surveyed in the UK that refuse to reveal the identities of their donors.3

Received Funding from Tobacco Industry

Early June 2013, the Observer revealed that the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute received funding from cigarette firms.2
Both JTI, which makes Camel, and Imperial, whose brands include Embassy, defended their donations to the think tanks. “We believe the contributions of organisations like the ASI and the IEA are very valuable in an open and free society. We respect their work and share their views on many issues,” a spokesman for Imperial told the newspaper. In a statement JTI said: “We work with the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute as their economic and behavioural expertise help us better understand which tobacco regulation measures will work and which will not.” A spokesman for Marlboro manufacturer Philip Morris International confirmed that the company is a member of the Institute of Economic Affairs, but refused to provide any details on ASI.
The ASI confirmed that 3% of its funding came from tobacco firms, although it declined to reveal how much (see below). A spokesman told the Observer it had a policy of capping private donations, but declined to reveal the level of the cap. “However, the latest available company accounts reveal that Adam Smith Services Ltd had an income of just under £750,000 in 2011, which suggests that it received around £24,000 from ‘big tobacco’.”
The Observer added:

Their admissions have dismayed health groups, which question the degree to which both organisations have influenced government thinking, especially on plain packaging for cigarettes. It also highlights the entrenched links between “big tobacco” and the libertarian strand of British politics that has been strengthened by the recent rise of Ukip, a party that has positioned itself firmly on the side of smokers.2

Both think tanks have a history of criticising regulation of smoking such as plain packaging and the smoking ban in pubs, arguing that they represent an attack on civil liberties, as is detailed on this page and that of the IEA and Mark Littlewood.
The Institute also has a history of close collaboration with the tobacco industry, detailed on the pages below:

No Disclosure on Funding

ASI does not disclose its sources of funding on its website or price of membership. However, it has previouslyoffered sold ‘subscriptions’ costing £150 for individuals, £500 for companies and institutions, ‘partner membership’ for more than £1000 per year. ‘Patrons’ of the organisation give £5,000 or more a year. 4
ASI does not publish a list of it subscribers, partners or patrons, but has admitted funding from “a couple” of tobacco companies in the recent past.
In February 2012, the Institute published a report written by Christopher Snowdon attacking plain packaging. Echoing Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging, the report argued:

  • “There is no solid evidence of its efficacy or unintended consequences”
  • “The public does not believe that plain packaging will stop people smoking”
  • “It is hard to think of a policy that could delight counterfeiters more than standardising the design, shape and colour of cigarette packs”
  • “Plain packaging is an infringement of intellectual property rights and a violation of international free trade agreements”
  • “It limits information and restricts choice”.5

When Action on Smoking and Health claimed that the tobacco industry’s “invisible hand” was behind the report,6 the Institute responded7

We commissioned this report ourselves because it reflects our free market, libertarian ideology. Indeed, the Adam Smith Institute does not do commissioned research.

However, there are a couple of tobacco companies that have corporate subscriptions at the Institute. The revenue from this – while welcome – is not terribly significant. It amounted to less than 3 percent of our 2011 income. Moreover, neither of these companies has played any role whatsoever in the production or editing of this report. We take our independence very seriously.

£9,000 from Big Tobacco

Two months later, the Financial Times reported that the ASI had received £9,000 from tobacco companies in 2011.8 In 2013, ASI stated that tobacco donations represented 3% of its funding.2 In October 2018, the ASI hosted a series of panel discussions and debates at the Conservative Party Conference on e-cigarettes with speakers (UKVIA) and Martin Cullip.9

The Letter to the Daily Telegraph

In March 2011, Eamonn Butler, the Director of the ASI, was one of a number of signatories of a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Telegraph attacking the Government’s position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.


Save Our Pubs & Clubs: is a “coalition of groups and individuals who believe that the public smoking ban introduced in Scotland in 2006 and the rest of the United Kingdom in 2007 is excessive and should be amended.”10
The website lists the following partners, along with the Adam Smith Institute:

Dr Eamonn Butler attended the launch of Save Our Pubs & Clubs:, and wrote a blog attaching the “daft, unintended consequences” of the legislation11 Warnings about the ‘unintended consequences’ of tighter tobacco laws is something of an industry mantra. 12

Tobacco Products Directive

Late 2010, ASI’s Research Manager Sam Bowman submitted a pro-tobacco response to the European Commission’s consultation on the possible revision of the Tobacco Products Directive, arguing that the EU ban on snus should be lifted as it ignored “the issues of civil liberties”.
Bowman furthermore suggested that all EU-wide regulations on cigarette packaging should be removed, allowing member states to make their own regulations, and argued against an EU-wide reporting format for tobacco products. Bowman’s submission was also highly in favour of tobacco product innovations, arguing that “tobacco is nonetheless a popular substance that many EU citizens enjoy consuming. Innovations that enhance enjoyment of tobacco should not stifled unless the innovations themselves are directly harmful”.13

Articles and blogs

On 10 March 2011, Tom Clougherty wrote an article.14 on the ASI website calling the government’s proposal for to ban the display of tobacco in shops and to consider plain packaging “fundamentally illiberal”. Repeating the same arguments put forward by the tobacco industry, he claimed: “Neither is justified based on the evidence… and both will create all sorts of unintended consequences (display bans will cost shopkeepers thousands of pounds, plain packaging will severely exacerbate existing problems with counterfeiting).” He added:

“It seems to me that tobacco is at the coalface of a much bigger cultural battle, in which capitalism, individualism and rationality are all coming under relentless attack by the enemies of freedom.”

On 18 December 2010, Tim Worstall wrote a blog on the ASI website, citing Christopher Snowdon‘s blog Velvet Glove Iron Fist. He claimed that people claim that smoking bans reduce heart attacks are “lying to us”, and that the “various controls and bans on smoking in Ireland have actually increased smoking”.15
With apparently no irony, given the ASI’s history of taking money from the tobacco industry, Sam Bowman wrote on 27 October 2010: “A new report released today by Forest, the smokers’ lobby, shows the extent to which the government has been funding groups like Action on Smoking and Health and No Smoking Day and continues to do so.” He called for abolition of “anti-smoking quangos”.16


Dr Tim Evans from the ASI was also an associate in the tobacco-funded scientific front organisation Associates for Research in the Science of Enjoyment (ARISE).
The purpose of ARISE was to “develop scientific research into the enjoyment of products that give pleasure using a wide body of academic opinion, while it also promoted the “the sensory and other effects of alcohol, chocolate, coffee, tea and tobacco”.


ASI’s website lists the following staff members:17

  • Dr Madsen Pirie, president
  • Dr Eamonn Butler, director
  • Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications
  • Daniel Pryor, Head of Programmes
  • Matthew Lesh, Head of Research
  • Morgan Schondelmeier, Head of Development

Also listed are three members of The Entrepreneurs Network which describes itself as “a think tank for the ambitious owners of Britain’s fastest growing businesses and aspirational entrepreneurs”.18 The Network is the secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship and says that it carries out research and other activities to support entrepreneurs.

  • Philip Salter, Director, The Entrepreneurs Network
  • Sam Dumitriu, Research Director, The Entrepreneurs Network
  • Annabel Denham, Editor, The Entrepreneurs Network

There are also more than 20 Adam Smith Institute fellows.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Other entries relevant to the ASI:


  1. Adam Smith Institute, Home page, Adam Smith Institute, undated, accessed 15 June 2011
  2. abcdJ. Doward, Health groups dismayed by news ‘big tobacco’ funded right-wing thinktanks, The Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs received money from cigarette firms, it has been revealed, the Observer, 1 June 2013, accessed June 2013
  3. Transparify, How Transparent are Think Tanks about Who Funds Them 2016?, 29 June 2016, accessed June 2019
  4. Adam Smith Institute, ‘‘Support the Adam Smith Institute’’, undated, accessed 15 June 2011
  5. Christopher Snowdon, Plain packaging: Commercial expression, anti-smoking extremism and the risks of hyper-regulation, Adam Smith Institute, 20 February 2012
  6. Action on Smoking and Health, “Invisible hand” behind Adam Smith Institute plain packs report, ASH website, 20 February 2012
  7. Adam Smith Institute, quoted by Christopher Snowdon’s blog post Plain Packaging: Commercial expression, anti-smoking extremism and the risks of hyper-regulation, Iron Fist, Velvet Glove website, 20 February 2012
  8. Christopher Thompson, “Big Tobacco Hits out at ‘Big Mother'”, Financial Times, 7 April 2012, p4
  9. Adam Smith Institute, October 2 2018, accessed July 2019
  10., About us, undated, accessed 14 June 2011
  11. Adam Smith Institute, Amend the smoking ban, blog, 23 June 2009, accessed 15 June 2011
  12. See Privacy International – Repeating industry arguments
  13. European Commission,Results of Consultation and Next Steps: NGOs, Excel sheet entry #139, accessed 29/02/2012
  14. Adam Smith Institute, Smoking and individualism, 10 March 2011, accessed 15 June 2011
  15. Adam Smith Institute, On smoking bans and lies about smoking bans, 18 December 2010, accessed 15 June 2011
  16. Adam Smith Institute, The anti-smoking boondoggle, website, 27 October 2010, accessed 15 June 2011
  17. Adam Smith Institute, Our People, undated, accessed July 2019
  18. The Entrepreneurs Network, website, undated, accessed July 2019
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