Eyebrows were raised when a dominant anti-smoking charity in effect co-chaired a government announcement this summer on tighter regulation of electronic cigarettes.
The relationship between Action on Smoking and Health and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, though, is closer still, City Diary has found. More than 150 pages of e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act went back and forth between Deborah Arnott, ASH’s chief executive, and Jeremy Mean, the MHRA official who led the review of electronic cigarettes, in the six months leading up to the announcement in June.
The pair were in contact on a range of matters, including a media appearance, EU policy formation and easing the entry of an e-cigarette company into Britain.
Hours after the MHRA announced it would tighten regulation of e-cigarettes, Ms Arnott sent a rallying e-mail to Mr Mean. “To use Churchill’s well-worn phrase, this isn’t the end, it isn’t even the beginning of the end, but it is, definitely, the end of the beginning!"
150 pages of e-mails were exchanged between the two groups while the MHRA was coming to its decision?!?! Why on earth has the MHRA been collaborating with a special interest group on e-cigarette regulation?
Why are a handful of extreme anti-tobacco activists stage-managing government announcements?
Why the hell is Deborah Arnott sending Churchillian quotes to a senior MHRA official? Does she see the destruction of the incumbent e-cigarette industry as her own personal El Alamein?
ASH is a small political lobby group. None of its staff are scientists or have any relevant experience in toxicology. I can see no reason why the MHRA would seek the advice of a private interest group to this extent, nor why it should be arranging its press conferences.
At the very least, there are questions for the MHRA to answer about why they were sharing confidential information with an outside lobby group like ASH. Who is pulling the strings at this organisation?