Institute of Economic Affairs

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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a British right-wing think tank, set up in 1955, which has a history of close collaboration with the tobacco industry.



  • Mark Littlewood was appointed IEA’s Director General in October 2009.1 Littlewood also is one of the founders of Progressive Vision, a libertarian lobby group, and its offshoot Liberal Vision.
  • The libertarian blogger Christopher Snowdon is the IEA’s Head of the Lifestyle Economics unit which was established in January 2013 to “put hard evidence at the heart of all its publications” about the “hazards and failures of state paternalism”.2 IEA also stated: “Time and time again, we see well-intentioned but ill-considered policies backfire by fuelling the black market, exacerbating poverty and encouraging more harmful consumption”.2


  • An investigation by the British Medical Journal in May 2019 identified an organisation called Freer set up in 2018 which promotes free market policies. It is based at the IEA and shares staff but “is not registered as a charity and is therefore not subject to the same political lobbying restrictions that constrain the IEA’s activities”.3 Freer co-chair Luke Graham MP told the BMJ:

“The Freer initiative, like the IEA, has no corporate line on public policy proposals. It is united by people who broadly support free markets and free people. All views published by the IEA or Freer are the author’s own.”3

In April 2019 Freer published a collection of essays called On Social Freedom.4 It covered topics such as Ben Bradley MP opposing taxes on meat and sugar, and Christopher Snowdon opposing minimum unit pricing. Writer Matt Ridley contributed a chapter promoting vaping where he wrote that the decline in smoking rates and cigarette consumption in the UK was due to e-cigarettes.5This echoes industry claims but independent studies show a far more complex picture.6

  • In October 2015, the IEA launched the “Paragon Initiative”, a five-year project with the aim of putting “every area of government activity under the microscope” and analysing “the failure of current policies”.78
  • In 2014, the IEA established and funded the think-tank collective EPICENTER.9 EPICENTER launched the ‘Nanny State Index’, designed by Christopher Snowdon in 2016.10, 11

For more information see EPICENTER

Tobacco Industry Funding and Lack of Transparency

The IEA does not disclose its funding sources and has repeatedly received a “one star” (the lowest) rating by transparency watchdog Transparency International.12
Evidence below shows that tobacco companies, amongst others, have financially supported the IEA for decades.13 14
In May 2019, 32 Conservative MPs were named as linked financially, directly or indirectly, to the IEA. From 2010 until his appointment as health secretary in July 2018, Matt Hancock MP received a total of £32,000 from Neil Record, who joined the IEA board of trustees in 2008 and became its chair in 2015.3 The BMJ reported:

”Hancock did not respond directly to The BMJ’s request to confirm whether he had been aware that the IEA was funded by a tobacco company when he accepted donations from the chair of the institute’s trustees. A spokesperson said only that ‘all donations have been declared in line with parliamentary regulations.’”3

Michael Hintze, an IEA trustee, has made gifts or donations to MPs.3 These include Robert Buckland MP who was made Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on 24 July 201915 and Boris Johnson, who became Prime Minister on 24 July 2019.
A British Medical Journal investigation into the IEA said: “Among the MPs most closely and publicly associated ideologically with the IEA is Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton in Surrey since 2010.”3 On 24 July 2019, Raab was appointed Foreign Secretary.16

British American Tobacco

The IEA has received funding from British American Tobacco (BAT) since 1963, and to date (January 2019) BAT describes itself as an IEA member in the EU Transparency Register.17
The IEA receives annual donations from BAT. It refused to disclose the amount in 2019.18. In 2018 the donation amounted to £40,000.19 The yearly amount has increased from £10,000 in 2011 to £20,000 in 2012 and £40,000 since 2013. 2021222324
For details of more historic IEA funding from BAT, see: IEA: History of Close Ties with the Tobacco Industry

Imperial Tobacco

Imperial Tobacco has also been a long-term financial backer of the IEA. In 2014, Dr Steve Stotesbury, then Head of Regulatory Science at Imperial Tobacco, wrote in an email to the Tobacco Control Research Group that “We have been supporters of the IEA for many years, stretching back well over a decade”.26

Philip Morris International

In 2013, Philip Morris International (PMI) confirmed IEA membership to British newspaper The Guardian. The company was quoted as saying: “We confirm that we are a member of the Institute of Economic Affairs, but cannot provide you with any further details.”27
An internal 1998 Philip Morris document detailing “Public Policy Donations”, lists a donation to the IEA’s American funding arm, the “American Friends of the IEA”, to the value of $10,000.28

Japan Tobacco International

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) told the The Guardian in 2013 that: “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.”27

IEA one of Philip Morris’ “Media Messengers”

In a 2012 leaked PMI presentation, the tobacco company identified the IEA as a potential “media messenger” in its strategy to prevent the introduction of Plain Packaging legislation in the UK.29 This is consistent with historic evidence which shows that the tobacco company had identified the IEA as “particularly useful for PM” as early as 199530 and that it could potentially assist in “policy outreach”, being one of seven groups that would “pro-actively relay our positions” and “establish an echo chamber for PM messages/responses addressing major issues facing the company.”31
Historic documents dating from 1996 and 2001 further show that BAT considered the IEA a “vehicle for delivery” of UK reputation initiatives.3233

Criticised Tobacco Control Legislation

The IEA has a history of criticising tobacco regulation such as plain packaging and the smoking ban in pubs, arguing that they represent an attack on civil liberties.34

Plain Packaging

UK plain packaging legislation was approved in March 2015 after many years of consultation and significant opposition from tobacco companies and their allies, much of which hinged around evidence. The IEA was very active in the policy debate around plain packaging, engaging in activities to influence public opinion and lobby decision-makers against the policy, promoting tobacco industry-commissioned research and creating doubt about independent scientific evidence throughout.

Supported Tobacco-Industry Funded Campaign

IEA Director Littlewood was a prominent supporter of tobacco industry front group Forest‘s Hands Off Our Packs campaign against plain packaging, and was an invited guest speaker at the campaign launch in January 2012.35 36 In addition, IEA’s Head of Lifestyle Economics Christopher Snowdon wrote a campaign blog in support of Hands Off Our Packs.37 Angela Harbutt, the IEA’s Development Director, was the coordinator of the Hands Off Our Packs campaign.38

Influencing Public Opinion: Plain Packaging “Will Do Nothing to Improve Health”

In April 2012, when the UK Government announced its first consultation on plain packaging, the IEA’s response in the media closely resembled the arguments put forward by the tobacco industry. Commenting on the government announcement, Mark Littlewood, said that the consultation was “a patronising and unnecessary distraction which will do nothing to improve the public’s health”.39 Littlewood also suggested that the policy might increase illicit trade, and that the best way to tackle underage smoking is through “improved education and better enforcement at the point of sale”.39
In April 2014, the IEA published a pamphlet authored by Snowdon called: “Plain Packaging – Questions That Need Answering”.40 The pamphlet repeated arguments commonly used by the tobacco industry and quoted industry-funded evidence, for example PMI-funded research by Roy Morgan Research.

Lobbied Decision Makers

In January 2014, the IEA submitted evidence to the UK Government’s Independent Review into Standardised Packaging of Tobacco undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler. The IEA’s submission, written by Snowdon, re-iterated common tobacco industry arguments against plain packaging.41 Snowdon drew from industry-funded research, conducted by KPMG, which was dismissed as “flawed” by the Australian Government.42
In a statement following the announcement of a second public consultation on the introduction of plain packaging in June 2014, Littlewood claimed that the evidence was “not on the side of plain packaging”.43

Display Bans

The UK government introduced an England-wide Point of Sale Display Ban in 2010, to be implemented in all retail outlets by 2015. A legal challenge by BAT, Imperial Tobacco, PMI and JTI ensued but was dropped in December 2011.44 Also see: Point of Sale Display Ban.
In 2010, the IEA published a discussion paper by Patrick Basham entitled “Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons”.45 The publication concluded: “the empirical evidence does not demonstrate that tobacco display bans have reduced smoking prevalence or consumption in the four countries where they have been instituted: Canada, Iceland, Ireland, and Thailand. In this sense, display bans appear to be – like so many other tobacco control policies – highly ineffective”.45
The discussion paper was strongly criticised by health charity Cancer Research UK, which argued that Basham’s paper had a number of “general weaknesses”, including:

  • the failure to disclose Basham’s or the IEA’s longstanding links with the tobacco industry;
  • the lack of evidence published in peer-reviewed journals; and
  • the presentation of “selective evidence” that “undermined claims about the effects of a display ban”.46

In March 2011, Littlewood 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 display bans.

Tobacco Advertising

In 1997 and 1998, the IEA’s Roger Bate was the author of multiple articles in the Wall Street Journal Europe and the Financial Times opposing tobacco advertising bans. He argued that a ban on tobacco advertising would not only fail to reduce smoking, but ultimately lead to an increase in smoking.474849
In 2007 the IEA republished an old study by Professor Hugh High that the IEA had originally published at the end of the 1990s and which had concluded that “there is no evidence that advertising of tobacco products leads to increase in the total consumption of tobacco.”50 The IEA argued that High’s 1990s study was still relevant today, “particularly in the so called ‘obesity debate’.”51
See also Hugh High.

Attacked the WHO

In 2000, Roger Bate wrote a letter to the Financial Times arguing that the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) should be “rejected”.52
That same year, the IEA published a pamphlet attacking the WHO for its campaign against tobacco.53 The author of the pamphlet, writer and philosopher Roger Scruton, was on the payroll of JTI and later conceded that he should have “declared an interest”.53 A leaked email revealed that Scruton, was receiving a monthly fee from JTI of £4500 and had asked for a £1000 per month pay rise to place more pro-tobacco articles in prestigious newspapers and international magazines.54

Criticised Public Health Legislation

In May 2019 the British Medical Journal reported 20 instances over the previous year of the IEA attacking public health policies on issues such as alcohol pricing and sugar taxes.3

Funding from the Food and Beverage Industries

A letter to the IEA’s “American Friends” suggests that the IEA has received donations from a range of food and soft drinks companies such as Coca-Cola, Tesco, Unilever, and Tate and Lyle Sugars, amongst others.55
Moreover, the IEA co-hosted an event with Tate and Lyle at the 2016 Conservative Party Conference.56

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Link

IEA website


  1. Institute of Economic Affairs, Mark Littlewood appointed Director General of the IEA, IEA blog, 26 October 2009, accessed January 2019
  2. abInstitute of Economic Affairs, Lifestyle Economics, undated, accessed January 2019
  3. abcdefgJ. Gornall, Big tobacco, the new politics, and the threat to public health, British Medical Journal, 15 May 2019, accessed May 2019
  4. R.Lowe On Social Freedom April 2019
  5. M.Ridley, On Social Freedom, On Vaping, April 2019, accessed May 2019
  6. House of Commons, Science and Technology Committee report, E-cigarettes, Seventh Report of Session 2017-19, published 16 July 2018, accessed May 2019
  7. Paragon Initiative, How to Achieve Effective Government, Institute of Economic Affairs, undated, accessed January 2019
  8. Institute of Economic Affairs, Launch of the Paragon Initiative 2015, accessed January 2019
  9. EU Transparency Register, European Policy Information Center, 18 December 2018, accessed January 2019
  10. The Nanny State Index,EPICENTER, 2016, archived 31 March 2016, accessed July 2019
  11. Institute of Economic Affairs,Nanny State Index 2019, IEA Report, 2019, accessed July 2019
  12. Transparify, Pressure grows on UK think tanks that fail to disclose their funders, 16 November 2018, accessed January 2019
  13. P.J. Ricketts, Contributions to Economic Research Bodies, 13 May 1975, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 201017779-201017780, accessed February 2019
  14. BAT, Note Regarding Deed of Release and Replacement, 9 September 1968, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 201034507, accessed February 2019
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  17. EU Transparency Register, British American Tobacco, last modified 23 May 2018, accessed January 2019
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  19. S. Cleverly, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, 25 April 2018
  20. S. Cleverly, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, 12 May 2017
  21. S. Cleverly, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, 21 March 2016
  22. S. Cleverly, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, 29 May 2015
  23. S. Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, 4 June 2014
  24. S. Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Second Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 18 June 2013
  25. S. Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, 20 May 2013
  26. S. Stotesbury, Head of Regulatory Science, Imperial Tobacco, Email to University of Bath, 25 March 2014
  27. abJ. Doward, Health groups dismayed by news ‘big tobacco’ funded rightwing thinktanks, The Observer, 1 June 2013, accessed January 2019
  28. Philip Morris, 980000 PUBLIC POLICY CONTRIBUTORS, 17 December 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2065243965-2065243979, accessed February 2019
  29. G. Monbiot, How Big Tobacco’s lobbyists get what they want from the media, The Guardian, 17 March 2014, accessed January 2019
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  31. T. Borelli, Proposed Plan for Policy Outreach Group, 4 May 1995, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2046563764-2046563777, accessed January 2019
  32. British American Tobacco, UK Public Affairs 2001, 5 January 2001, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 325123726-325123751, accessed January 2019
  33. Unknown, CORA Projects (1997), 3 September 1996, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 700642024-700642025, accessed January 2019
  34. C. Snowdon, Killjoys: A Critique of Paternalism, London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 2017, accessed January 2019
  35. Hands Off Our Packs, Supporters, accessed February 2012
  36. S. Clark, Hands Off Our Packs Launch Party, Taking Liberties blog, 28 February 2012, accessed January 2019
  37. C. Snowdon, Plain packs nothing to do with health, Hands Off Our Packs, 30 January 2012, archived 9 December 2015
  38. Institute of Economic Affairs, Angela Harbutt – Development Director, accessed January 2019
  39. abInstitute of Economic Affairs, Plain Packaging of Tobacco: the State Should not Regulate Which Colours we are Allowed to Look at, PR Newswire, 13 April 2012, accessed January 2019
  40. C. Snowdon, Plain Packaging – Questions That Need Answering, 21 April 2014, accessed December 2018
  41. C. Snowdon, Consultation Submission – Response from the Institute of Economic Affairs to the Independent review into the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco, January 2014, accessed January 2019
  42. Sir Cyril Chantler, Standardised packaging of tobacco: Report of the independent review undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler, Kings College London, 3 April 2014, accessed January 2019
  43. Institute of Economic Affairs, Evidence not on the side of plain packaging, 26 June 2014, accessed January 2019
  44. Cancer Research UK, Cancer Research UK Briefing: Point of Sale Tobacco Displays, February 2014, accessed January 2019
  45. abP. Basham, Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons, IEA Discussion Paper No. 29, July 2010 , accessed January 2019
  46. Cancer Research UK, A response by Cancer Research UK to Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons by Patrick Basham Institute of Economic Affairs Discussion Paper 29, Undated, accessed January 2019
  47. R. Bate, Tobacco Ad Bans Don’t Cut Smoking, Wall Street Journal Europe, 15 January 1997, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2062205490B, accessed January 2019
  48. R. Bate, The Marlboro man can’t make you smoke, Wall Street Journal Europe, 11 February 1997, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 527940802-527940804, accessed January 2019
  49. R. Bate, A Myth Stubbed Out, Financial Times, 20 April 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 321544610, accessed June 2011
  50. Institute of Economic Affairs, Tobacco Advertising Does Not Increase Smoking: IEA Author, Press Release, 6 April 1999, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 321534506, accessed January 2019
  51. Institute of Economic Affairs, Does Advertising Increase Smoking?, 20 July 2007, accessed January 2019
  52. R. Bate, Impossible claims for tobacco controls, Letter to the Financial Times, 25 October, 2000, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2084320337B-2084320338, accessed January 2019
  53. abR. Scruton, Who, What and Why? Transnational Government, Legitimacy and the World Health Organisation, Institute of Economic Affairs, 2000, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2084588170-2084588238, accessed January 2019
  54. Z. Kmietowicz, A. Ferriman, Pro-tobacco writer admits he should have declared an interest, British Medical Journal, Volume 324, 2 February 2002
  55. Unknown, American Friends of the Institute of Economic Affairs, date unknown, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no:TI40570636, accessed February 2018
  56. Institute of Economic Affairs, After Brexit, building a global free trade environment, October 2016, accessed December 2018