Many of the listed groups obviously have 'financial ties' to the tobacco industry because, er, they are the tobacco industry. I'm not sure anyone ever doubted whether the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers, the European Cigar Manufacturers’ Association or the Tobacco Manufacturers Association were involved in the tobacco business, but ASH helpfully list them all the same. Sinclair Collis is included because it...
Well it would, wouldn't it? It is the country's biggest supplier of cigarette vending machines. Or rather, it was until the government banned vending machines. It banned them after consulting with stakeholders in the 2008 Department of Health consultation on tobacco control to which Sinclair Collis—very a much a stakeholder—responded. ASH have put on the old deerstalker and picked up the magnifying glass to reveal that the company is a "wholly owned subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco", a shameful secret that Sinclair Collis cunningly conceals by hiding it in plain sight on the homepage of their website...Made a submission to the 2008 Department of Health consultation on tobacco control
Sinclair Collis is the UK's largest cigarette vending operator, a wholly owned subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco PLC.
Others entries in ASH's hit list are more peculiar. The British Retail Consortium is included because it was, apparently, "one of the stakeholders identified in PMI’s “Project Clarity”", whatever that means. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is included because "Imperial Tobacco includes the CBI among organisations with which it engages". The European Roundtable of Industrialists is in the list because "BAT was a member until 2010". I guess BAT aren't members any more but, never mind, let's call them a front group anyway.
This is mental. ASH's list includes some of the biggest trade organisations in the country. They've been around for donkey's years and between them they represent the vast majority of British businesses. ASH are classing them as 'tobacco front groups' because their members include, or used to include, one or two cigarette companies.
And it gets worse...
The Federation of Small Businesses and Scottish Grocers Federation are both listed because they were "lobbied by PMI to oppose Government’s tobacco control proposals". Not that they lobbied themselves, you understand. They were lobbied by PMI (Philip Morris International) and are therefore engaged in this vast conspiracy.
Unite are included! Yes, that Unite, the massive trade union that represents over 3 million workers. They are on a list of 'tobacco front groups' because they are "linked to the TWA". The TWA is the Tobacco Workers Alliance (also listed)—a trade union which quite obviously has "links" to the tobacco industry since that's the industry its members work in.
As lame as all this is, the document reaches a scurillous low in a section entitled 'Astroturfing', which ASH helpfully defines as:
‘Astroturf’ refers to “apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, and political interests or public relations firms”.
Do bear that definition in mind as you read which groups are included under that banner. From the same section:
Big Tobacco also funds groups to influence public opinion online. Amongst these is Liberal Vision which acknowledges itself as “in strict legal terms … a wholly-owned subsidiary” of Progressive Vision. Progressive Vision ran a summit with the TMA on illicit tobacco smuggling in January 2011.
And only ASH is allowed to run summits about illicit tobacco smuggling. That's the full extent of ASH's evidence that Liberal Vision is an astro-turf group paid "to influence public opinion online". Rather tenuous, no?
But I too, a mere individual, am somehow an astro-turf group as well...
Chris Snowdon’s blog, Velvet Glove Iron Fist has removed its claim not to receive tobacco industry funding.
Yeah, about two years ago, and it was never on my blog, it was on this now dormant website. When Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (my first book) came out, I included a brief note on the 'about the author' page saying I didn't work for Big Tobacco, Big Pharma and wasn't involved in any anti-smoking groups. This was probably too defensive and unnecessary even then, but after I wrote The Spirit Level Delusion, The Art of Suppression and numerous articles and papers about alcohol, happiness economics, food, drugs and the rest, it looked downright weird. And so, although it was still true, I replaced it with a more conventional and extensive biography. Absence of denial is not evidence of guilt, you ASH muppets.
Snowdon was part of an “impressive line up” of invited speakers at the industry’s Global Tobacco Networking Forum in Bangalore in 2010.
Yes indeed. I gave a talk about the history of the anti-smoking movement in a session called 'A View From Outside', ie. as an outsider speaking at a tobacco industry event. And, as is conventional at conferences, I didn't get paid for speaking, so what we have here is someone giving up their time to speak at an industry event which is rather different to someone being paid "to influence public opinion online".
He was billed as an adjunct scholar of the tobacco industry funded Cato Institute
No, I wasn't. I've never had the honour of being invited to be an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the simplest fact-check would show that I was billed as an adjunct scholar at the Democracy Institute. To be quite honest, I've never really known what an adjunct scholar is, but I do know that I've never received any money for being one.
Still, it's appropriate that I'm included because people not getting money for doing things is very much the theme of this document, which reaches a new low when discussing the quite obviously grass-roots organisations of FORCES, Freedom2Choose and TICAP.
FORCES, an acronym for ‘Fight Ordinances and Restrictions to Control and Eliminate Smoking’ claims to be independent of any commercial body but is “aligned with those who fight the antismoking movement”.
Quite obviously they are aligned with those who fight the antismoking movement. We can work that out from the name.
Through its criticism and opposition to tobacco control campaigns FORCES is aligned to the tobacco industry.
What weasel words are these? If you've got some evidence that FORCES is "primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations" then spit it out.
Previously secret documents released in court demonstrate that under the leadership of Gian Turci, FORCES sought the support of Philip Morris and Rothmans Ltd.
But they didn't get it, did they? So here we have the tobacco industry refusing to give money to a group with whom they are "aligned". Perhaps FORCES should seek support from ASH so that when ASH refuses, we can call them a tobacco industry front group as well.
The slurs continue...
The UK-based Freedom2choose lobby group, which was set up originally to oppose the smokefree legislation, says it is a grass-roots organisation that is independent of the tobacco industry. However, some people associated with it have links with Big Tobacco.
I'd be fascinated to know who these people are but, alas, ASH choose not to name them. If I was more cynical man I would say that this is because they haven't got one shred of evidence to back up their claim. Perhaps the fact that most of their members purchase cigarettes is considered a sufficient "link with Big Tobacco".
Freedom2choose is allied to The International Coalition Against Prohibition.
And TICAP don't get money from the tobacco industry either. This is just a great list of astro-turf groups. It's a Who's Who of everybody who has never received industry funding.
One of the founders of TICAP was Gian Turci. According to TICAP Turci was a member of the Executive Committee of Freedom2choose.
Cool. So the guy who (allegedly, but is dead so can't defend himself) asked for tobacco funding but didn't get it was "allied" to two organisations which have never asked for tobacco funding and have never got it. With this awesome collection of astro-turf groups, combined with the might of the CBI, Unite, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Grocers Federation, the Leicester Asian Business Association, the UK Travel Retail Forum (?!), Liberal Vision and my good self, it's a miracle that any anti-smoking legislation has ever been passed.
At this rate, it can only be a matter of time before members of ASH start accusing each other of being front groups and instigate a purge.
There is some heavy irony here. Not only is ASH (and Smokefree SouthWest and D-MYST and so on) an astro-turf group for the Department of Health, but the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health is itself a front group for ASH. It was formed in 1976 by ASH's then director David Simpson as a way of briefing politicians and persuading MPs to raise Early Day Motions and Private Member's Bills. It was originally known—more accurately—as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Action on Smoking and Health, but they later dropped the 'Action on', presumably to make it look a bit less like the mouthpiece of a special interest group. ASH continues to provide all briefing materials and pays for all expenses. The group's secretariat is Deborah Arnott, the current director of ASH.
Wheels within wheels, indeed.