Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Tobacco Fronts

Daily Record: Illegal tobacco sales claims denounced

by Gareth Jones, reporting for the Daily Record:

Professor Linda Bauld, of the university’s Institute of Social Marketing, said new research funded by the tobacco industry is attempting to hamper plans for plain cigarette packaging in Scotland.

Former Scotland Yard Detective Will O’Reilly carried out an undercover investigation into the illicit tobacco trade, where his team was able to buy 44 packs of illegal cigarettes and two 50g quantities of roll-your-own tobacco. During the three-day operation, which covered Alloa, Falkirk and Stirling, the cheapest pack of 20 cigarettes was bought for £3.50 – less than half the normal retail price, which averages at £8 a pack.

Mr O’Reilly said: “There needs to be more done to combat this issue throughout Scotland.

“We know that organised crime is behind the illicit trade. Criminals are turning from harder crimes to this, due to higher profit margins and fewer risks.”

The investigation was commissioned by Philip Morris International Inc, which boasts seven of the world’s top 15 international brands, including Marlboro, the number one cigarette brand worldwide.

The findings come as the Scottish Government has committed to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, with legislation expected to come in by 2015.

The tobacco industry is claiming this would lead not only to the closure of many smaller newsagents and convenience stores but also to an increase in the illegal trade. And no ‘point of sale’ regulation means that illicit cigarettes could be produced in unsanitary conditions, with past reports suggesting they contain anything from dead flies to human faeces.

Mr O’Reilly’s team have passed their findings on to Trading Standards, who will be investigating claims which include a Stirling barmaid who is selling illegal cigarettes by the carton. A test purchaser, who told her he only had £20 to spend, was given four packs of a well-known international brand in an ‘under the counter’ transaction.

Intelligence from the test buyers was that organised criminal groups control the illicit tobacco supply in Stirling, especially around pubs, and threaten anyone else trying to sell illicit products with violence.

But Professor Bauld, who has advised both the UK and Scottish Government about standardised packaging of cigarettes, said: “Every time there’s a new piece of legislation about to clamp down on smoking, the tobacco industry says it will fuel the increase of illegal sales.

“They did it when we brought in the point of sale legislation, meaning packets had to be hidden from view in shops.

“The police and HMRC have strategies to deal with illegal sales, and it’s thought just one in 10 tobacco sales is now illegal – it used to be one in three.

“I would be amazed if we had a huge problem in Stirling. This is just scaremongering. And to say illicit cigarettes are dangerous is a bit of a cheek, since tobacco itself kills one in two users.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said: “We know that removing brands and logos makes tobacco less attractive to young people. Why do you think the tobacco companies are spending millions of pounds opposing it?

The tobacco companies have a long history of opposing regulation by paying for scaremongering studies and reports that suit their agenda. Put simply you cannot trust work paid for by a tobacco company. They have been proved wrong before and I am sure they will be proved wrong again.”

A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “Trading Standards actively pursue the prevention of the sale of illicit tobacco products. Recent successes, helped by our trained detection dog, have included operations at local markets, retailers and mobile traders. All reportings of alleged sales are investigated and appropriate action taken.”

22 Nov 2013

BMJ joins top medical journals in shunning misinformation propagated by tobacco-funded research

The British Medical Journal has announced that they “will no longer consider for publication any study that is partly or wholly funded by the tobacco industry. Our new policy is consistent with those of other journals including PLoS Medicine, PLoS One, PLoS Biology; Journal of Health Psychology; journals published by the American Thoracic Society; and BMJ’s own Tobacco Control.”

Misinformation is dangerous. Spreading false news and beliefs has always been common, and studies in methodologies of critical thinking and judgment has advanced rather drastically to train minds in discerning proper, credible works from the ranks of unreliable and biased writings.

Where techniques in security advance, techniques in breaking security will always be haunting, breaking a step or two ahead. Likewise with knowledge, even as critical thinking has improved, there will be charlatans taking advantage of weaknesses in methods of thought; posing the credibility of academic studies, they write convincing pieces of studies that are either worthless or, worse, intended to mislead readers into false believes and judgments.

The latter is what is happening with tobacco-funded ‘research’. Commissioned by research foundations created by tobacco firms and writing in the format of academic journals, tobacco-funded studies throw readers off-guard by using very analytical and scientifically-toned writing to ‘prove’ theories such as ‘No definite link between menthol flavours and youth smoking’ or ‘High tariffs linked to increased smuggling, which in turn funds criminal activity’. And in unfortunate moments, media agencies and journals sometimes get taken in and publish these writings to lend their reports a flavour of ‘balance’, adding false weight to the credibility of these writings and making it even harder for readers to make proper judgments on the truth of the matter.

The ban that BMJ and other medical journals impose on such tobacco-funded research is thus by no means ‘shutting out’ different opinions. Rather, the editorial boards are now much more aware of the ‘knowledge trap’ that such articles present; that by publishing such work alongside real scientific research, they unintentionally help tobacco fronts set such traps for their readers.

Click here to read the full post from the BMJ Group: