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Tobacco trade group chief quits –

August 31, 2011 10:17 pm

Tobacco trade group chief quits

By Rose Jacobs

The head of the UK tobacco industry’s main trade body has resigned after failing to persuade the coalition government to rescind anti-tobacco measures introduced under Labour.

Christopher Ogden, who joined the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association in 1997 and became chief executive in 2007, will step down in October following a review of the organisation’s structure initiated by its members, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher, a division of Japan Tobacco.

The resulting revamp, which will see the departure of five of the TMA’s seven employees, is aimed at cutting costs, removing overlaps of work by the association and its members’ public affairs teams, and taking a more localised approach to lobbying and campaigning, said Mr Ogden.

This follows a year and a half of frustrated ambitions as the government resisted pressure to ease restrictions on smoking and tobacco advertising and marketing, including bans on cigarette adverts imposed between 2003 and 2005, the 2007 prohibition on smoking in public places and a forthcoming ban on cigarette vending machines.

The tobacco lobby’s only significant success in recent years has been to delay a ban on displaying tobacco products in shops, a measure supporters say will curb take-up of smoking by young people. Originally set to be introduced at supermarkets this autumn, the ban will now start next April. All other shops are expected to comply by April 2015.

“We would have hoped to achieve more,” Mr Ogden said on Wednesday. “Inevitably, there’s disappointment.”

He attributed some of the government’s reluctance to delay rises in tobacco duty to the state of the economy and ministers’ desire to raise as much revenue as possible from smokers.

But he also said that the governing coalition had been less willing than past Conservative administrations to rely on industry self-regulation.

He was proud of anti-smuggling efforts and “getting our voice heard championing the cause of individual retailers”, citing work by the Tobacco Retailers’ Association, which is funded by the TMA.

The TRA’s tactics during the display-ban battle have been criticised, with anti-smoking activists saying it concealed its links to a pressure group it helped create called Save Our Shop.

Katherine Graham, former TRA campaign manager, left in July to join Japan Tobacco as a regulatory affairs stakeholder relations manager in London.

The only people to survive the TMA restructuring are an office manager and Paul Stockall, a tax and trade expert.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, which campaigns for stricter measures against tobacco, called the shake-out “a sign of how ineffective the TMA has been”, and said congratulations should go to the government for standing up to the tobacco industry.

“The government’s commitment in its recently published Tobacco Plan to protect its public health policy from the vested interests of the tobacco industry and to go ahead with removing tobacco displays in shops must have been the last straw,” she added.

A spokesman for Imperial said on Wednesday that the group had “done a good job” and had “been well led by Chris”.

Mr Ogden said he had not finalised plans for his future. “Half of me wants to give up work and the other half wants another challenge,” he said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011. You may share using our article tools.

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