IEA: Working with RJ Reynolds, BAT and Philip Morris on Environmental Risk

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Undermining the Concept of Environmental Risk

By the mid-1990s, the Institute of Economic Affairs had extended its work on Risk Assessment (RA). More specifically, the head of IEA’s Environment Unit Roger Bate was interested in undermining the concept of “environmental risk”, especially in relation to key themes, such as climate change and pesticides, and second hand smoke.

Soliciting for BAT Funding

In October 1995, the IEA’s Environmental Unit held its first conference on the subject, which was attended by Dr Sharon Boyce from BAT.1
The following month, Bate met Keith Gretton, the Manager of Communication for BAT, seeking the company’s support – as was documented in his thank you note: “It was a pleasure meeting you earlier today. Our discussion was interesting and most helpful to the IEA’s research. Later this month I shall send you an outline of our environmental risk project. I will look forward to your comments and hope you will find it worthy of BAT’s support.2
The IEA later forwarded a copy of the proceedings of the conference that was produced in a booklet about Environmental Risk to Boyce.3 The IEA also wrote to Keith Gretton at BAT, to say that: “Roger will be in touch soon to update you on our risk project – it is coming along well and will be one of our main areas of focus in 1996”.4
Days later, Gretton wrote an internal endorsement of IEA’s Risk Assessment (RA) project: “Should the RA programme take off fully in the UK or EU, the IEA is a good ally. A current thrust of its work is on RA (initially re global warming etc, widening its net later in 1996). An RA publication is planned to which we could input. When a decision is made on the appropriate strategy for going forward on RA, we should meet Roger Bate head of IEA Environment Unit”.5

IEA / ESEF Book on Environmental Risk

In 1996 Roger Bate, under the auspices of the IEA as well as his parallel project the European Science and Environment Forum, wrote a proposal for a book on Environmental Risk. “The principle objective of the book is to highlight the uncertainties inherent in ‘scientific’ estimates of risk to humans and the environment resulting from exposure to certain hazards”, including second hand smoke. The budget for the book was £50,000.6

RJ Reynolds Funding

In July 1996, Bate approached RJ Reynolds with the book proposal. He wrote:

What I propose is that we publish a book on risk, illegible low dose risks, from both a science and social science perspective … The book will be 150 pages and contain a media friendly summary. It should be sent to 2,000 identified media and other policy makers across Europe … It should also be sent to every relevant university department across Europe. The link with the social side and the Institute of Economic Affairs will endure a wide audience.

The book was a joint project between ESEF and the IEA, with each probably putting in £25,000. “It would be helpful if you could confirm funding as soon as possible as I hope to push forward on this project as soon as possible.7 8
The documents reveal that RJ Reynolds supported Bate’s book and was interested in how it sold and was promoted. One RJ Reynolds Inter Office Memo of the company’s “External Relations” activities from November 1997 said:

The book, What Risk, edited by Roger Bate has received considerable media coverage, especially in the UK. The book is carried at the Frankfurt book fair, the biggest in the world, where it is promoted and foreign versions (German) are negotiated. Dissemination among relevant audiences (media, legislators, scientists) is ongoing through the editor and the publishers.9

Authors to be renowned scientists without any previous connections to the industry

An RJ Reynolds internal monthly report for February 2007 gave an update on the “Book project with ESEF”. It included:

  • “Got industry aligned and met with editor Roger Bate to discuss current status and publication details.
  • Status: most papers submitted, editing process begun.
  • Publication: negotiations with major U .K. publishing house to ensure maximum distribution and marketing. Target date: in time for Frankfurt Book Fair in autumn.”

The document also included a “Background” statement, showing how one of the key attractions for Reynolds was that “Authors to be renowned scientists without any previous connections to the industry”.10

BAT Funding

One week after approaching RJ Reynolds, Bate approached Keith Gretton from BAT, saying “Attached is the outline for the book on Risk that we would like to publish. I am putting some information in the post to you about ESEF, lets speak later in the week, when you’ve received it. But if you have any immediate comments please come back to me on my new number.”
The budget for the book had doubled within a week to £105,000.11

Soliciting Philip Morris Funding

In October 1996, an internal Philip Morris document memo indicated Bate had also approached PM for funding. It said: “thank you for the information on ESEF and the letter sent by Roger Bate to R. Pauling. I was not aware that Roger is also seeking funding from the other cigarette companies.”12

Risk Book Was Part of BAT’s PR Plan

The following year, 1997, BAT’s Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee (CORA), outlined various areas of scientific research they would fund, including on ETS and risk. The document noted that “We believe that if good risk assessment practice was applied, no agency could determine that ETS was a cause of lung cancer. This project aims to encourage risk assessment, and to illustrate the problems when consistent risk assessment is not applied”.
The document went on to propose the “Plan”:

To sponsor a brochure on risk assessment using the Social Affairs Unit and the Institute of Economic Affairs. The brochure would discuss risk assessment principles, illustrate where a lack of proper rules and openness has lead to politically correct regulatory conclusions( including on the ETS issue), and illustrate the economic importance of not regulating on issues that have little or no importance to health.

The budget was £60,000, with a proposed donation to the SAU/ IEA.13
That year Bate’s book on risk was published entitled: “What Risk? Science, Politics and Public Health”. It was edited by Bate, published by Butterworth-Heinemann and ESEF, and promoted by the IEA. “Research findings published in the book What Risk? cast doubt on the relationship between lung cancer in non-smokers and environmental tobacco smoke (secondary smoking).”14 The book was sent to all BAT’s CORA managers.15
Bate was also one of the speakers in April 1998 when BAT organised a conference on risk, fronted by the European Policy Centre.16 17

Raising the Debate

By now, ESEF was becoming more of a vehicle for pro-tobacco work than the IEA. BAT’s CORA plan for the following year, 1998, included funding Bate’s sister project ESEF, rather than the IEA. Under “Raising the debate” it said:

Support public policy groups (Social Affairs Unit, the Cato Institute and European Science and Environment Forum) and academics associated with such groups to produce book and articles on issues such as risk evaluation and social policy on tobacco issues.

The amount was £150,000.18


  1. Lisa Mac Lellan, Letter to Sharon Boyce, 8 January 2006, accessed June 2011
  2. Roger Bate, Letter to Keith Gretton, 2 November 2005, accessed June 2011
  3. Institute of Economic Affairs, Economic Affairs, Winter, 1995, accessed June 2011
  4. Lisa, Mac Lellan, Letter to Mr Keith Gretton, 8 January, 1996, accessed June 2011
  5. Keith Gretton File Note on Institute of Economic Affairs, document dated 18 January 1995, but is in fact 1996 as it quotes IEA’s 1995 Winter Magazine, accessed June 2011
  6. Roger Bate, Proposal on Environmental Risk, 07 August 1996, accessed June 2011
  7. Roger Bate, Letter to Adam Bryan-Brown, RJ Reynolds, 31 July, 1996, accessed June 2011
  8. Stephen B. Sears, Memo to Mary E. Ward, RJR Tobacco, 8 August, 1996, accessed June 2011
  9. Tom C. Griscom, Inter Office Memorandum, RJ Reynolds, 4 November, 1997, accessed June 2011
  10. Axel Gietz, Monthly Report, February 1997, 27 February 1998, accessed June 2011
  11. Roger Bate, Fax to Keith Gretton, 6 August 1996, accessed June 2011
  12. Theresa von Wuthenau, Memo to Helatut Reif, 21 October, 1996, accessed June 2011
  13. BAT, Science and Regulation Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 1997 Plan and Budget, 31 July, 1996, accessed June 2011
  14. What Risk? Science, Politics and Public Health,accessed June 2011
  15. Vickie Curtis, Email to GBCORAMgrsWorld, 30 March 1998, accessed June 2011
  16. Vickie Curtis, “Memo to Stanley Crossick; Diana Fortescue; Bruce Ballantine; Joe Huggard / Michelle Arness”, 20 March 1998, accessed June 2011
  17. European Policy Centre, Managing Risk: A Balancing Act, 29 April 1998, accessed June 2011
  18. BAT, Cora Centre Plan 1998, 26 September 1997, accessed June 2011