IEA: History of Close Ties with the Tobacco Industry

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* Related to the TobaccoTactics page on the Institute of Economic Affairs

History of Being Funded by the Tobacco Industry

Documents from the tobacco industry archives show that the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) was funded by British American Tobacco from 1963.1 2 In the 1970s, the IEA was being paid £2,500 by BAT, which increased to £5,000 in 1980. The money was routed to the IEA via the Charities Aid Foundation.3
The amount remained the same until 1985. That year, the IEA’s Lord Harris (who later became chairman of Forest)4 wrote to BAT asking it “to join our top subscribers at £10,000 per annum, (BP, Shell, ICI, Beecham and McAlpine)”.5 To this BAT “proposed that in 1986 overall support of the Institute of Economic Affairs should be placed on a regular basis at a rate of £10,000 p.a”.6 This level of payment continued. The recommendation that year to the Board was for BAT to “subscribe £9,000 to the Institute of Economic Affairs, which, together with the Eagle Star subscription of £1,000 brings the overall Group support to £10,000”.7
In 1987, the IEA received a further £10,000 from BAT8 and then requested further financial assistance towards acquiring the freehold of 2 Lord North Street. BAT proposed donating a further £2,500 for four years (totalling £10,000).9
In requesting assistance from BAT, the IEA thanked them for being “among our strongest supporters over the years”, who were “entitled to share the tributes paid to our success”.10
In 1990, BAT’s Board Minutes revealed that the IEA received £9,000 that year from the company.11 It received the same amount – £9,000 – the following year,12 although this was reduced by 50 per cent on the departure of the IEA’s Director General, Graham Mather,13 who was seen as close to BAT’s Chairman Patrick Sheehy. By 1998, BAT’s annual subscription to the IEA was £6,000.14 But by 1999, the figure was £7,500. 15

The Tobacco Industry’s Preferred Think Tank

Tobacco industry documents reveal that Philip Morris identified the Institute of Economic Affairs as one of the UK based think tanks that could host an event or conference on “ETS Science / Junk Science” in the mid-1970s. Among the list was:

  • Adam Smith Institute
  • Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which Philip Morris identified as having a “US contact”
  • Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), with “US ties” to Philip Morris
  • Institute of Economic Affairs – Health and Welfare Unit.16

Another Philip Morris document from 1994 describes how the IEA “may be particularly useful for PM”. 17 A year later, in May 1995, Philip Morris identified the IEA as one of seven think tanks and groups to assist in “policy outreach”. The groups would “pro-actively relay our positions” and “relay ideas and establish an echo chamber for PM messages/responses addressing major issues facing
the company.” 18
In 1996, a document from BAT‘s Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee for its activities for the following year identified how under the topic of “Issues-based projects to focus regulators and opinion-leaders on a more appropriate agenda”, BAT could “support initiatives by AGORA and Institute of Economic Affairs to promote a balanced perspective on public issues among opinion leaders”. 19
In 1998 John Blundell, the then-director of the IEA, wrote to the Tobacco Institute asking for an appointment during a visit to the US. Blundell wrote:

“The IEA provides rigorous analysis of vital economic and social issues to opinion leaders worldwide. It plays a central role in the international debate overtrade, regulation, labour markets, the environment, health care and education. The IEA offers a tremendous strategic advantage to the Tobacco Institute in today’s global environment … I believe you will find our work has a significant impact on US and international policy and merits your attention.”20

History of Defending the Tobacco Industry

Rejecting the Advertising Ban

In 1997, the IEA’s Roger Bate wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal Europe arguing that there was “mounting evidence” that cigarette advertising bans do not reduce smoking. Rather, argued Bate, they reduced jobs and limited the development of potentially “safer” tobacco products. Bate concluded that “for the moment tobacco advertising legislation may be politically expedient, but it does not reduce smoking”. 21
A month later, Bate penned another article in the same paper, entitled “The Marlboro man can’t make you smoke”. 22
The following year, Bate wrote an article for the Financial Times that argued, “The European Union should scrap plans to ban tobacco advertising because such a move, far from reducing smoking, would lead to an increase in the activity”. 23
In 1999 the IEA published a study by Professor Hugh High of the University of Cape Town, defending tobacco advertising. The study argued that: “Banning advertising of tobacco would not curb smoking.” 24 High also wrote about tobacco advertising in The Wall Street Journal Europe.25

Rejecting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

In 2000, Roger Bate wrote to the Financial Times arguing that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), should be “rejected”, because:

“the restrictions proposed on smoking are substantial: guaranteed protection from passive smoking, tax to make up at least two-thirds of the pack price (a massive price rise for smokers in developing countries), a ban on vending machines, removal of tobacco from retail price indices, WHO approval of all chemicals in tobacco products, bans on all forms of advertising and sport sponsorship, bans on sales of cigarettes in packs under 20, no mention of ‘light’ or ‘mild’ to describe products, tobacco packaging to include at least 50 per cent coverage with anti-tobacco pictures and warnings, international legal compensation for ‘victims’ of tobacco . . . and the list goes on.”26

Countering Scientific Committees

In preparation for the Report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) in 1998 into environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), BAT prepared a “Plan for a UK ETS Programme”. Part of the plan was to “Prompt discussion in the media of risk assessment and the subjugation of science in favour of politics by governments around the world”. 27

Working With BAT Against GATT

In 1999, BAT was becoming worried about negotiations at the World Trade Organisation pertaining to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). One document noted that:

“The attempt by environmental campaigners, both in government and outside, to green the GATT has worrying implications for trade. Factions within the EU and the USA have promoted the notion that individual countries should be able to restrict imports of goods made with technologies deemed to be environmentally damaging … Fred Smith, Julian Morris, Ray Evans, Roger Bate and Francois-Xavier Perroud met in early May to discuss how to challenge the green agenda, and especially how to present our arguments to developing countries. We aim to combat this green agenda (probably via papers, op-eds, meetings with LDC Trade officials, conferences and speaker tours) and will meet in Washington DC on 23rd /24th June 1999 to devise our overall strategy and tactics for the coming years. Those to attend include:

* Jonathan Adler, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), USA

* Roger Bate, IEA, UK

* Ray Evans, Western Mining, Australia

* Jack Kemp, USA

* Karen Kerrigan, Small Business Survival Committee, USA

* Deepak Lal, UCLA/UCL, UK

* Noel Malcolm, UK

* Julian Morris, IEA, UK

* Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform, USA

* Alan Oxley, APEC Study Centre, Australia

* Francois-Xavier Perroud, Nestle, Switzerland

* Jeremy Rabkin, Cornell University, USA

* Austin Ruse, Catholic Family and Human Rights, USA

* Parth Shah, Center for Civil Society, India

* Jim Sheehan, CEI, USA

* Fran Smith, Consumer Alert, USA

* Fred Smith, CEI, USA

* Alan Tonelson, US Business and Industry Council, USA”

The document continued:

“An agenda for this meeting will be written over the next week or so and circulated to key participants. What should it include?

* Topics for Op-eds/Papers

* Establishment of an International NGO – the Global Organisation for Development – GOD

* Lobbying of politicians in developing countries

* Speaker tours to LDCs

* Conferences – where, London, Washington, New Delhi, Cape Town? What keynote speakers, conference organisers and public affairs allies

* Funding -Individuals, Corporations, Foundations”28

Attacking the WHO

In 2002 it was revealed that the writer and philosopher Roger Scruton, who wrote a pamphlet by the IEA attacking the World Health Organisation in 2000 for its campaign against tobacco, was on the payroll of Japan Tobacco International.29
Scruton was forced to admit that he should have “declared an interest”. He was subsequently sacked as a columnist by the Financial Times. He told the British Medical Journal: “Our firm had a consultancy with Japan Tobacco Industries at that time. I was asked independently to do this write the pamphlet. I did not want to mix it up with the consultancy, but looking back I should have declared an interest.”
A leaked email revealed that Scruton, who was receiving a monthly retainer fee of £4500, had asked for a £1000 per month pay rise to place more pro-tobacco articles in prestigious newspapers and international magazines. He declared the amount to be “good value for money in a business largely conducted by shysters and sharks”.30

TobaccoTactics Resources


  1. BAT, Note for Chairman’s Policy Committee, 13 May 1975, accessed June 2011
  2. BAT, Note Regarding Deed of Release and Replacement, 9 September 1968, accessed June 2011
  3. BAT, Extract from Minutes of Meeting of Chairman’s Policy Committee, 14 May 1980, accessed June 2011
  4. Lord Harris, Letter from Lord Harris of High Cross to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, 26 February 1997, accessed April 2012
  5. I M MacInnes, Note to the Chairman, 20 May 1985, accessed June 2011
  6. BAT, Extract of Minutes of Meeting of the Chairman’s Policy Committee, 23 May 1985, accessed June 2011
  7. BAT, Extract of Minutes of Meeting of Chairman’s Policy Committee, 21 March, 1986, accessed June 2011
  8. BAT, Extract of Minutes of Meeting of the Chairman’s Policy Committee held on Tuesday, 30th June, 1987, accessed June 2011
  9. N. G. Brookes, Note to the Chairman’s Policy Committee, regarding the Institute of Economic Affairs, 8th May 1987, accessed June 2011
  10. Lord Harris of High Croft, Letter to Patrick Sheehy, 14 April 1987, accessed June 2011
  11. BAT, BAT Board Meeting, 5 June 1990, accessed June 2011
  12. Patrick Sheehy, Letter to Graham Mather, 29 April 1991, accessed June 2011
  13. Patrick Sheehy, Letter to Lord Harris, 17th March 1992, accessed June 2011
  14. Heather Honour, Letter to John Blundell, 22 June 1998, accessed June 2011
  15. BAT, Science and Regulation Forecast, 16 September 1999, accessed June 2011
  16. Philip Morris, EU/ US Policy Groups, December 1994, accessed June 2011
  17. Philip Morris, Europe, 1994, accessed June 2011
  18. Tom Borelli, Proposed Plan for Policy Outreach Group, Memo To Steve Parrish, 4 May 1995, accessed June 2011
  19. BAT, CORA Projects (1997), 3 September, 1996, accessed June 2011
  20. J. Blundell, Letter to Scott A Wilson, Vice President, Federal Relations, Tobacco Institute, 27 July 1998, accessed June 2011
  21. Roger Bate, “Tobacco Ad Bans Don’t Cut Smoking,” Wall Street Journal Europe, 15 January 1997, accessed June 2011
  22. Roger Bate, The Marlboro man can’t make you smoke, Wall Street Journal Europe, 11 February 1997, accessed June 2011
  23. Roger Bate, A Myth Stubbed Out, Financial Times, 20 April 1998, accessed June 2011
  24. The Institute of Economic Affairs, Tobacco Advertising Does Not Increase Smoking: IEA Author, Press Release, 6 April 1999, accessed June 2011
  25. Hugh High, Tobacco Ad Bans Limit Freedom and Don’t Work, Wall Street Journal Europe, 12 May 1998, accessed June 2011
  26. Roger Bate, Impossible claims for tobacco controls, Letter to the Financial Times, 25 October, 2000, accessed June 2011
  27. BAT, Media Programme, Undated
  28. British American Tobacco, Proposed Strategy Meeting for WTO, 1999
  29. Roger Scruton, Who, What and Why? Transnational Government, Legitimacy and the World Health Organisation, Institute of Economic Affairs, 2000
  30. Zosia Kmietowicz & Annabel Ferriman, Pro-tobacco writer admits he should have declared an interest, British Medical Journal, Volume 324, 2 February 2002