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July, 2013:

Europe split on plan to ban menthol and slim cigarettes

Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:00am



The New York Times in London

Campaigners say they lure young to smoke, but Poland fears job losses and a backlash from ban

New rules being discussed by European Union ministers would ban menthol and slim cigarettes, a move intended to improve the health of Europeans but one that has divided it broadly along cold war lines.

Led by Poland, one of Europe’s biggest tobacco producers, a bloc of former communist countries is fighting a rearguard action against the measures, hoping at least to save slim cigarettes, which are popular with many smokers, often women.

The concern of the rule drafters is that slim cigarettes add an allure that attracts young women to smoking and that menthol cigarettes make it easier for young people of both sexes to start, and become hooked on, smoking.

But Poland stands to lose tobacco industry jobs and some politicians worry about seeming high-handed to smokers, an estimated third of the population.

“It’s about freedom, to a large extent,” said Roza Grafin von Thun und Hohenstein, a centre-right Polish member of the European Parliament.

Thun said she supported the health impulses behind the draft legislation but after listening to objections from voters at a meeting in Krakow she decided the rules should be relaxed. “People said, ‘When are you going to prohibit us from drinking wine or vodka, or stop us using white sugar? Maybe you will also tell us to go to bed early because going to bed late is also unhealthy’.”

The proposed rules, due to be discussed by ministers yesterday, would also require that pictures of smoking-related medical problems and written health warnings cover 75 per cent of the front and back of cigarette packs. This provision may be scaled back after haggling among health ministers who will be debating the rules in Brussels. Any new regulations would require the approval of the European Parliament before becoming law.

Tobacco has been a troublesome issue for the European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, which has run public health campaigns to cut smoking but only recently removed direct agricultural subsidies for growing tobacco.

The commission came up with the proposed rules in December. They are supported by Ireland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency and they would save lives and money.

“Approximately 700,000 Europeans die every single year of tobacco-related causes,” Ireland’s health minister, James Reilly, said in a speech this year. “Smoking is the largest avoidable health risk in Europe, causing more problems than alcohol, drug abuse and obesity.”

The annual public health care cost attached to smoking in Europe was estimated at €25.3 billion (HK$260 billion), Reilly said. He cited recent studies showing 70 per cent of smokers began their habit before age 18.

Menthol brands make up 18 per cent of Polish consumption.

Source URL (retrieved on Jul 24th 2013, 6:02pm):

Introduction effects of the Australian plain packaging policy on adult smokers: a cross-sectional study



To determine whether smokers smoking from packs required under Australia’s plain packaging law had different smoking beliefs and quitting thoughts, compared with those still smoking from branded packs.


Cross-sectional survey during the roll-out phase of the law, analysed by timing of survey.


Australian state of Victoria, November 2012.


536 cigarette smokers with a usual brand, of whom 72.3% were smoking from a plain pack and 27.7% were smoking from a branded pack.


Perceived quality and satisfaction of cigarettes compared with 1 year ago, frequency of thoughts of smoking harm, perceived exaggeration of harms, frequency of thoughts of quitting, quitting priority in life, intention to quit, approval of large graphic health warnings and plain packaging.


Compared with branded pack smokers, those smoking from plain packs perceived their cigarettes to be lower in quality (adjusted OR (AdjOR)=1.66, p=0.045), tended to perceive their cigarettes as less satisfying than a year ago (AdjOR=1.70, p=0.052), were more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day in the past week (AdjOR=1.81, p=0.013) and to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives (F=13.11, df=1, p<0.001). Plain pack smokers were more likely to support the policy than branded pack smokers (AdjOR=1.51, p=0.049). Branded and plain pack smokers did not differ on measures of less immediate smoking intentions, frequency of thoughts about harms or perceived exaggeration of harms. Appeal outcomes, but not other outcomes, were sensitive to the extent of roll-out, with responses from branded pack smokers approaching those of plain pack smokers, once 80% of survey respondents were smoking from plain packs 1-2 weeks before the December implementation date.


The early indication is that plain packaging is associated with lower smoking appeal, more support for the policy and more urgency to quit among adult smokers.

Plain cigarette packs ‘encourage smokers to quit’

Plain cigarette packs ‘encourage smokers to quit’

Plain packaging of cigarettes was introduced in Australia last December

Related Stories

Selling cigarettes in unbranded packs seems to make tobacco less appealing and encourages smokers to quit, suggests a study.

The work comes from Australia – the first country to introduce plain packaging.

The BMJ Open research looked at the impact of the policy on 536 smokers in the state of Victoria.

The findings come days after ministers were criticised for putting on hold a plan to impose plain packs in England.

Downing Street denied the Tories’ election strategist, Lynton Crosby, had been responsible for the delay to plain packaging.

Mr Crosby’s links with alcohol and tobacco companies have been called into question by some MPs.

“Start Quote

When cigarettes aren’t disguised by flashy packaging and carefully crafted branding, smokers see them for what they are – a lethal product which kills half of its long term users”

End Quote Kate Alley Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager

Defending the decision to delay, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government wanted more time to see how the policy had worked in Australia.

The BMJ Open study gives an early indication of precisely this.

Researchers polled a sample of smokers during November 2012 when plain packs were already available in the run up to the country-wide introduction of the legislation.

Almost three out of four (72.3%) were smoking cigarettes from plain packs while the remainder (27.7%) were still using branded packs with smaller health warnings.

Compared with branded pack smokers, smokers using plain packs were 66% more likely to think their cigarettes were poorer quality than a year ago and they were 70% more likely to say they found them less satisfying.

They were also 81% more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day during the previous week.

And plain pack smokers were 51% more likely to back the plain pack policy than were brand pack smokers.

Kate Alley, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, said: “This new evidence from Australia confirms what we already know, selling cigarettes in standardised packs makes smoking less appealing and encourages smokers to quit.

“When cigarettes aren’t disguised by flashy packaging and carefully crafted branding, smokers see them for what they are – a lethal product which kills half of its long term users.”

She said ministers should “stop stalling” and introduce standardised packs in the UK as soon as possible, adding that 85% of the British public wanted government action to reduce the number of children who smoke.

Simon Gillespie, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “These are clear-cut findings about how existing smokers have reacted to the changes in Australia. Westminster has absolutely no excuse for delaying legislation to introduce standardised packaging.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We take very seriously the potential for standardised packaging to reduce smoking rates, but in light of the differing views, we have decided to wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured, and then we will make a decision in England.

“This decision is an important one and whilst we keep it under review, we’ll be continuing to implement our existing plan to reduce smoking rates through ending the display of tobacco in all shops, running national behaviour change campaigns to encourage smokers to quit and through supporting local authorities to provide effective stop smoking services.”

David Cameron urged to probe claim that aide had £6m tobacco deal

David Cameron urged to probe claim that aide had £6m tobacco deal

Lynton Crosby comes under renewed fire over Philip Morris links as row over cigarette packaging rages on

Lynton Crosby

Lynton Crosby signed the contract with Philip Morris. Photograph: Stuart Clarke / Rex Features

Labour has urged David Cameron to investigate claims that a contract that his electoral strategist, Lynton Crosby, signed to provide the cigarette firm Philip Morris International (PMI) with lobbying services could be worth as much as £6m.

As the row over Crosby’s role in a government U-turn on plain cigarette packaging continues, an informed source claimed that the PMI contract was signed personally by Crosby last November after another lobbying firm, Luther Pendragon, severed its ties with the company following criticism from leading health organisations.

The source said a figure “of around £6m” was discussed, although the agreed amount and the duration of the contract are not known.

In a letter to Cameron, Labour’s shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, states: “It has been alleged to me that last November, after his appointment as your electoral strategy adviser, Lynton Crosby personally signed a contract between Philip Morris International and Crosby Textor for lobbying work in the UK, including on standardised packaging of tobacco. It is claimed that the contract was in the region of £6m.” Burnham also asks Cameron to clarify what discussions, if any, he had with Crosby on plain packs.

“In various interviews, you refused to say whether you had discussed the issue of standardised packaging with Mr Crosby, leaving the clear impression that a conversation has indeed taken place,” he writes. “It is essential that you address this point directly and clear this matter up.”

The contract with Crosby’s company, Crosby Textor Fullbrook (CTF), was signed following close discusssions with Livio Vanghetti, PMI’s vice-president of corporate affairs, European Union region, and Brett Cooper, its director of corporate affairs, UK and Ireland.

PMI said in response to a series of questions put to it by the Observer that the claims were “factually incorrect” and “completely inaccurate”. It declined to comment further. A CTF spokesman said that the “allegations are without foundation and categorically untrue”. It declined to comment on the value of its contract with PMI.

Crosby’s relationship with the prime minister has been under intense scrutiny since the government abandoned plans for cigarettes to be sold in plain packs. Cameron is expected to repeat on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday his assertion that he has never been lobbied by Crosby on the issue of cigarette packaging and add that there has been no other “intervention” by the Australian on the matter.

There has been speculation that the rise of Ukip, which promotes the rights of smokers, and concerns that plain packaging would lead to a rise in tobacco smuggling were two reasons why Cameron decided to abandon the plan after Crosby reputedly encouraged him to prioritise the Tories’ goals ahead of the 2015 general election.

“Nobody cares about the latest hair-splitting evasion Mr Cameron dreams up to obscure whether he and Mr Crosby spoke about standard packaging,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash. “But they do care that over 200,000 children still start to smoke in this country every year, and that many will go on to terrible illnesses and early deaths as a result.”

In January PMI shared a report with Department of Health officials that it had commissioned from an independent expert that was scathing about the arguments made for plain packaging.

The report was written by Rupert Darwall, who worked with Crosby on the 2005 Tory election campaign and was offered an associate directorship at one of the lobbyist’s companies.

A spokesman for the Conservative party said: “The PM has already been absolutely clear that he was not lobbied by Lynton Crosby on this, or anything else, and that the decision was his and the health secretary’s without reference to any other outside bodies.”

Woman suffers 60pc burns in flats drama

Woman suffers 60pc burns in flats drama

Two women were injured, one seriously, in a fire at Shau Kei Wan believed caused by cigarette butts.

Nectar Gan

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two women were injured, one seriously, in a fire at Shau Kei Wan believed caused by cigarette butts.

The fire broke out about 1.45pm yesterday in a room at a 753-square- foot flat on the seventh floor of the 25-story King Fai Building on Main Street East.

It was put out within 35 minutes.

However, a 54-year-old woman who lives in the flat, identified as Ma, suffered burns to 60percent of her body. She was taken to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital but later transferred to the intensive care unit at Queen Mary Hospital.

The other woman, 48, was found on the 11th floor staircase suffering from smoke inhalation. She was taken to Pamela Youde, where her condition was said to be stable.

Sixty residents of the building were evacuated to the roof and the street after several explosions were heard. Nine fire engines and three ambulances attended.

Sai Wan Ho senior station officer Tse Man- pong said smoldering cigarette butts were found in the room where the fire started.

Tse said one of the windows was blown out, possibly because of the high room temperature caused by the fire and the resulting pressure buildup in the closed area.

He said there were three rooms in the flat although he could not confirm whether it had been subdivided.

However, a Mr Wong, 71, said the flat was subdivided into four rooms and he moved into one of them five months ago.

Altogether, six people shared the flat, Wong said.

He told how he was in his room when he smelled something burning and rushed out to see smoke coming out from under the door of his neighbor, Ma. “I asked her to leave but she wouldn’t,” he said.

“I then rushed down to the street, leaving all my belongings in the flat.”

Wong alleged that Ma was trying to commit suicide. “I think she did it on purpose and poured oil on her bed.”

He said Ma and her husband had lived in the apartment for a few years.

However, he seldom talked to her.

No 10 faces questions over ‘tobacco lobby links’

No 10 faces questions over ‘tobacco lobby links’

Lynton Crosby was appointed to construct the next Tory election campaign

Times photographer Tom Pilston

  • Lynton Crosby

Lynton Crosby was appointed to construct the next Tory election campaign Times photographer Tom Pilston

Alex Ralph and Francis Elliott

Last updated at 12:01AM, July 13 2013

A lobbying consultancy run by David Cameron’s election guru helped the world’s biggest tobacco company to avoid moves to make cigarettes less attractive to young people.

Ministers effectively abandoned yesterday efforts to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products. But hours later it emerged that Lynton Crosby’s company, CTF, had been advising Philip Morris Ltd in Britain since November.

The Australian-born Mr Crosby was appointed as a strategy adviser to the Conservative Party late last year, based on his reputation for securing election victories for the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

The U-turn

Tobacco industry told Government it was too early to tell if plain cigarette packaging would work – six months later ministers agreed–six-months-later-ministers-agreed-8711725.html

Tobacco industry told Government it was too early to tell if plain cigarette packaging would work – six months later ministers agreed

Nigel Morris Author Biography

Deputy Political Editor

Tuesday 16 July 2013


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· Ed Miliband lambasts Tory adviser Lynton Crosby for ‘devastating conflict of interest’ over cigarette packaging

· You caved in to tobacco industry pressure: protesters accuse Government as plan for plain cigarette packaging is shelved

· Leading article: No escaping the dangers of tobacco

· Investigations prize for tobacco exposé

· Australian health minister Tanya Plibersek adds fuel to Lynton Crosby row over cigarette packaging

A major tobacco firm told the Government it was too early to assess whether selling cigarettes in plain packets would deter smokers – six months before ministers deployed the same argument.

In a meeting with Department of Health officials, representatives of Philip Morris International (PMI) said there was “limited evidence” as yet on the success of a similar policy in Australia.

Last week the Government infuriated health campaigners by delaying a decision on whether to introduce plain packets in England. It explained it needed more time to assess the evidence from Australia, but Labour claimed its announcement followed pressure from the Tory election adviser, Lynton Crosby, whose lobbying firm is employed by Philip Morris.

Minutes of a meeting between company executives and civil servants were released yesterday by the Department of Health following a freedom-of-information request. They state: “PMI said that there is limited evidence from Australia as to what the effect of standardised packaging so far, largely due to the short period of time since its introduction.”

On BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, presenter Eddie Mair quoted the words back at Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and asked if he agreed.

Mr Hunt said it was “correct” that he did not disagree with the assessment – before being told it was a direct quote from the tobacco firm during its discussions with his department.

Lobbyists puff and blow over new EU tobacco rules

Lobbyists puff and blow over new EU tobacco rules

By Jane Deith File on 4, Brussels

Olivier Hoedeman Olivier Hoedeman criticises the tobacco industry’s lobbying tactics in Brussels

Continue reading the main story

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Olivier Hoedeman takes people on unusual tours of Brussels – he opens their eyes to the billions of euros that multinationals, unions and campaign groups spend trying to shape – even rewrite – the European laws made there.

The research and campaign coordinator of Corporate Europe Observatory – which monitors lobbying – pauses outside a smart office block, a few streets away from the European Parliament.

He points to the second floor and the offices of British American Tobacco. It has seven full-time lobbyists here and Mr Hoedeman says the tobacco industry as a whole employs around 100 in Brussels, spending more than 5m euros (£4.3m; $6.6m) a year.

Those numbers have grown as the industry fights proposed new regulation.

The European Commission is beefing up the Tobacco Products Directive, to try to dissuade young people from smoking.

So, for example, there would be a ban on menthol cigarettes and some other flavourings and bigger pictorial health warnings on packets.

Lobbying battlefield

Tobacco firms “directly lobby MEPs, trying to meet with him or her to talk them into tabling amendments, but also [organise] social events, like dinner parties for MEPs’ assistants,” Mr Hoedeman says.

“We have already seen in several of the votes of committees of parliament that the Commission’s proposals are being weakened. It shows they’re gaining ground and achieving that goal.”

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Linda McAvan MEP

Why don’t they just operate like every other company that lobbies the European Parliament? ”

End Quote Linda McAvan MEP

The lobbying appears to be having an impact. Almost 1,500 amendments to the tobacco directive have been tabled.

The EU’s health ministers, for example, voted to drop a ban on slim cigarettes, and reduce the size of the graphic health warnings, from the 75% the European Commission wanted, to 65%.

But last week the parliament’s public health committee voted to keep that ban, as well as a ban on cigarette flavourings, and backed the 75% target. So more hard bargaining lies ahead, and the full parliament will vote on 10 September.

The EU has an online database of lobbyists called the Transparency Register. But it does not tell the whole story: the register is voluntary and hundreds of lobbyists simply choose not to reveal themselves. There is no information about whom they have lobbied.

Special rules are supposed to apply to the tobacco industry. The EU has signed up to a World Health Organization treaty which says politicians should avoid meeting tobacco companies; if they must, the meeting has to be transparent.

But the British MEP piloting the tobacco legislation through parliament, Linda McAvan, says that away from the main lobbying battlefield the tobacco companies have been firing salvoes below the radar.

She accuses one of ringing her constituency office, posing as a representative of small retailers to demand an urgent meeting.

‘Legal company’

EU Commissioner Tonio Borg with cigarette pack, 19 Dec 12Tonio Borg from Malta is now negotiating for the EU Commission on the revised directive

Other tobacco lobbyists, she said, have been handing out anonymous amendments to MEPs, in the hope they will be put forward.

“If they think it’s legitimate, why are doing it like that? Why don’t they just operate like every other company that lobbies the European Parliament and just send it out in a normal email? I think they know that if people know they’re from the tobacco industry, they’ll be suspicious of the arguments they make,” said Ms McAvan.

Ronan Barry describes himself as a corporate affairs professional for British American Tobacco and heads their Brussels lobbying operation, which cost nearly 1m euros to run last year.

He says his company is always open and honest, and he does not recognise the tactics described by the MEP.

He believes tobacco companies have as much right to meet MEPs as any other business and says the scale of the tobacco lobby is often exaggerated.

“We sell a legal product and are a legal company and therefore have a role to play in communicating our point of view to people who make decisions that impact upon us.

There are certainly at least as many lobbyists arguing against our positions as there are arguing for them, so it’s not true to say there are armies of us here lobbying,” said Mr Barry.

A British Conservative MEP, Martin Callanan, echoed that view. “This idea they put across that it’s a sort of David and Goliath – these industrial giants with thousands of well-paid, suited lobbyists and only one or two little NGOs representing the oppressed common man is very, very far from the truth – it’s the other way round if anything.”

On average, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Brussels get 43% of their funding from EU institutions.

‘Billions of euros’

In the past year the lobbying debate on both sides has been overshadowed by a scandal involving the former commissioner who was supposed to be driving the tobacco directive, John Dalli.

At the centre of so-called “Dalligate” is an allegation that a friend of Mr Dalli asked for 60m euros to overturn a ban on snus – a moist chewing tobacco which you put under your lip.

Mr Dalli and his friend both strenuously deny the allegation.

An investigation by Europe’s anti-fraud office Olaf says that although it has circumstantial evidence linking Mr Dalli to the bribe request, that evidence is not conclusive.

Speaking from his home in Malta, Mr Dalli claims he is the victim of a conspiracy: “I was considered as a person who was very hard on the tobacco industry and they didn’t want that during their campaign.

“I’m already hearing about a lot of dilution that is being made to the directive because of the tobacco lobbies that have been very active.

“I’m afraid that what’s going to go through, if it goes through, is not as effective as one would like and what is the gain? The gain is billions of euros.”

Cigarette packaging: the corporate smokescreen

Noble sentiments about individual liberty are being used to bend democracy to the will of the tobacco industry

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‘Lynton Crosby personifies the new ­dispensation, in which men and women glide between corporations and ­politics, and appear to act as agents for big ­business within government.’ Photograph: David Hartley / Rex Features

It’s a victory for the hidden persuaders, the astroturfers, sock puppets, purchased scholars and corporate moles. On Friday the government announced that it will not oblige tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packaging. How did it happen? The public was overwhelmingly in favour. The evidence that plain packets will discourage young people from smoking is powerful. But it fell victim to a lobbying campaign that was anything but plainly packaged.

Tobacco companies are not allowed to advertise their products. Nor, as they are so unpopular, can they appeal directly to the public. So they spend their cash on astroturfing (fake grassroots campaigns) and front groups. There is plenty of money to be made by people unscrupulous enough to take it.

Much of the anger about this decision has been focused on Lynton Crosby. Crosby is David Cameron’s election co-ordinator. He also runs a lobbying company that works for the cigarette firms Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. He personifies the new dispensation, in which men and women glide between corporations and politics, and appear to act as agents for big business within government. The purpose of today’s technocratic politics is to make democracy safe for corporations: to go through the motions of democratic consent while reshaping the nation at their behest.

But even if Crosby is sacked, the infrastructure of hidden persuasion will remain intact. Nor will it be affected by the register of lobbyists that David Cameron will announce on Tuesday, antiquated before it is launched.

Nanny state, health police, red tape, big government: these terms have been devised or popularised by corporate front groups. The companies who fund them are often ones that cause serious harm to human welfare. The front groups campaign not only against specific regulations, but also against the very principle of the democratic restraint of business.

I see the “free market thinktanks” as the most useful of these groups. Their purpose, I believe, is to invest corporate lobbying with authority. Mark Littlewood, the head of one of these thinktanks – the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – has described plain packaging as “the latest ludicrous move in the unending, ceaseless, bullying war against those who choose to produce and consume tobacco”. Over the past few days he’s been in the media repeatedly, railing against the policy. So do the IEA’s obsessions just happen to coincide with those of the cigarette firms? The IEA refuses to say who its sponsors are and how much they pay. But as a result of persistent digging, we now know that British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International have been funding the institute – in BAT’s case since 1963. British American Tobacco has admitted that it gave the institute £20,000 last year and that it’s “planning to increase our contribution in 2013 and 2014“.

Otherwise it’s a void. The IEA tells me, “We do not accept any earmarked money for commissioned research work from any company.” Really? But whether companies pay for specific publications or whether they continue to fund a body that – by the purest serendipity – publishes books and pamphlets that concur with the desires of its sponsors, surely makes no difference.

The institute has almost unrivalled access to the BBC and other media, where it promotes the corporate agenda without ever being asked to disclose its interests. Because they remain hidden, it retains a credibility its corporate funders lack. Amazingly, since 2011 Mark Littlewood has also been the government’s adviser on cutting the regulations that business doesn’t like. Corporate conflicts of interest intrude into the heart of this country’s political life.

In 2002, a letter sent by the philosopher Roger Scruton to Japan Tobacco International (which manufactures Camel, Winston and Silk Cut) was leaked. In the letter, Professor Scruton complained that the £4,500 a month JTI was secretly paying him to place pro-tobacco articles in newspapers was insufficient: could they please raise it to £5,500?

Scruton was also working for the Institute of Economic Affairs, through which he published a major report attacking the World Health Organisation for trying to regulate tobacco. When his secret sponsorship was revealed, the IEA pronounced itself shocked: shocked to find that tobacco funding is going on in here. It claimed that “in the past we have relied on our authors to come forward with any competing interests, but that is going to change … we are developing a policy to ensure it doesn’t happen again.” Oh yes? Eleven years later I have yet to find a declaration in any IEA publication that the institute (let alone the author) has been taking money from companies with an interest in its contents.

The IEA is one of several groups that appear to be used as a political battering ram by tobacco companies. On the TobaccoTactics website you can find similarly gruesome details about the financial interests and lobbying activities of, for example, the Adam Smith Institute and the Common Sense Alliance.

Even where tobacco funding is acknowledged, only half the story is told. Forest, a group that admits that “most of our money is donated by UK-based tobacco companies”, has spawned a campaign against plain packaging called Hands Off Our Packs. The Department of Health has published some remarkable documents, alleging the blatant rigging of signatures on a petition launched by this campaign. Hands Off Our Packs is run by Angela Harbutt. She lives with Mark Littlewood.

Libertarianism in the hands of these people is a racket. All those noble sentiments about individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom are nothing but a smokescreen, a disguised form of corporate advertising. Whether Mark Littlewood, Lynton Crosby or David Cameron articulate it, it means the same thing: ideological cover for the corporations and the very rich.

Arguing against plain packaging on the Today programme, Mark Field MP, who came across as the transcendental form of an amoral, bumbling Tory twit, recited the usual tobacco company talking points, with their usual disingenuous disclaimers. In doing so, he made a magnificent slip of the tongue. “We don’t want to encourage young people to take up advertising … er, er, to take up tobacco smoking.” He got it right the first time.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at

David Cameron hits back over accusations he let ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street

David Cameron hits back over accusations he let ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street

David Cameron has never discussed plain cigarette packaging with Lynton Crosby, the Tory election strategist with links to the tobacco industry, senior Tories insisted today.


Rowena Mason

By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent

1:51PM BST 17 Jul 2013

They hit back after Ed Milband accused the Prime Minister of letting ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street.

In a fiery session of PMQs, Labour MPs taunted Mr Cameron over allegations he dropped plans to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes under the influence of Mr Crosby.

The row escalated as Labour urged a senior civil servant to investigate the Prime Minister’s relationship with Mr Crosby, whose company has worked for tobacco firm Philip Morris.

They made the radical decision to make a formal complaint about Mr Cameron to the Cabinet Secretary, after he dodged a question in parliament over whether he had ever discussed the issue his close adviser.

However, Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, later told the BBC’s World at One that there had been no conversations about cigarette packaging between the two men

· Smokers are ‘drug addicts’, says public health minister Anna Soubry

19 Jun 2013

The Conservatives were forced to respond after Mr Miliband put the Prime Minister under sustained pressure over the issue in the House of Commons.

“The whole of the country will have heard those same weasel words that you are sticking to,” Mr Miliband said to the Prime Minister. “You can’t deny that he had a conversation with Lynton Crosby about this issue.

“Even by the standards of this Prime Minister, this is a disgraceful episode.

“You are the Prime Minister for Benson and Hedgefunds and you know it. Can’t you see that there is a devastating conflict of interest between having your key adviser raking it in from big tobacco and then advising you not to go ahead with plain packaging?

“The reality that you cannot admit is that, against the advice of every major public health organisation, you have caved in to big tobacco. That is the reality about you and you know it.

“It’s Andy Coulson all over again. You are a Prime Minister who doesn’t think the rules apply to you – dinners for donors, Andy Coulson and now big tobacco in Downing Street, you always stand up for the wrong people.”

But Mr Cameron lashed out at the opposition leader, saying Labour is in no position to give the Tories a lesson on sleaze.

“You are in no position to lecture anyone on standards in public life,” he said.

“The reason your leadership is in crisis is that you can’t talk about the big issues. We are getting to the end of a political session when the deficit is down, unemployment is falling, crime is down, welfare is capped and Abu Qatada is back in Jordan.

“Everyday this country is getting stronger and everyday you are getting weaker.”