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July 7th, 2013:

Money before ethics ……………………….

23 May 2013

More updates on The Common Sense Alliance – involvement of Ogilvy & Mather:

· A profile on Rory Sutherland, the executive creative director of OgilvyOne London and the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather UK. Since August 2012, he is also the director of The Common Sense Alliance, listed as one of the founding members of this lobby group supported by British American Tobacco (BAT).

· Advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather has a well documented history of working with Big Tobacco: PR for the Tobacco Institute, a front group of the industry, and Influencing Science by creating doubt about second hand smoke in the 1980s. Today BAT is still one of their largest clients.

The Common Sense Alliance

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Screengrab of the Common Sense Alliance ‘Issues’ webpage (March 2013)

The Common Sense Alliance is a group that describes itself as a “growing community who question excessive regulation that lacks evidence and has not been fully thought through…” On their website homepage they claim that they are not a political group. Nevertheless their main activities show that they act as a lobby group. The Alliance asks readers to support common sense and sign up against:

· standardised packaging for tobacco,

· the late night levy on businesses selling alcohol between 12am and 6am,

· taxes on fatty foods and nutrition labelling.

They also urge supporters to contact their local MPs with these views and provide a link to the ‘Write to them’ webpage. Their tagline is “Common Sense, not Nonsense”.

The Common Sense Alliance was founded in August 2012, at the time the European Union was discussion the Tobacco Products Directive and the UK was preparing for the consultation on Plain Packaging.

The Common Sense Alliance has a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel.



Supported by British American Tobacco

The Common Sense Alliance is provided with ‘support’ from British American Tobacco (BAT). The tobacco company is one of the five main supporters of the Alliance listed on the Alliance’s homepage. It is unknown whether this ‘support’ is financial.

The website domain was registered by Basil Dutchak, who worked for Rothman’s tobacco company for 30 years and BAT for a further year before founding his own business B&K Associates Ltd in 2003. On his LinkedIn profile, Dutchak states that B&K Associates consists of “a team of sales experts who have been trained to the highest standard, primarily in the tobacco industry, who can deliver sales objectives particularly where new brands require additional support in early development.”[1] Dutchak retained a working relationship with BAT. Speaking of Dutchak in 2010, BAT National Sales Manager Andy de Caso said:

Basil has a unique and affective style in developing/delivering both coaching and training modules. As importantly the delivery of his courses are tailored to the clients’ requirements. He keeps abreast of real trends within the market place that influence consumers’ decisions and utilises these when training and coaching. B&K have played a key role in the development of first line managers and coaches and both performance and people measures have been improved (significantly in some areas) as a result of his involvement with my company.[2]

In addition to BAT, The Common Sense Alliance is also supported by:

· Great Heck Brewing Co LTd – an independent alcohol brewing company,

· Flaming Frog Design – a web design company that designed the webpage for the tobacco industry front group, the Tobacco Retailers Alliance. Furthermore, one of Flaming Frog’s partners, Madz Widen also known as Meg, previously worked as a Financial Executive of BAT in Sweden.[3]

· MSR Newsgroup Ltd – a Nottingham newsagent chain, and

· the Live Management Group (LMG) who organise live music events and festivals. The LMG are partnered with a company called MAMA Brand Partnerships that specialise in branding live music events, venues and festivals; most often alcohol branding. Rizla, an Imperial Tobacco owned cigarette rolling paper is one of the many brands that MAMA Brand Partnerships has promoted at live music events.

Against Plain Packaging

The Common Sense Alliance is against the plain packaging of tobacco products, they argue that:

· It will increase illicit trade as packets are less easily identified as genuine or illicit

· The economy will suffer from revenue lost to illegal tobacco product sales

· Once there is plain packaging for tobacco where will the government go next (slippery slope argument)

· Excessive regulation should be replaced with education for young people

Founding Members

The Common Sense Alliance website (Under the header ‘Supporters’) lists its founding members along with their credentials.

· Peter Sheridan – Former Assistant Chief Constable and Head of Organised Crime and Murder Investigation

· Roy Ramm – Former Commander of Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard

· Rory Sutherland – Former President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising

· Mick Garton – Managing Director of MSR News Group

· Kami Kundi – Justice of the Peace, Regional Director of the National Asian Business Association

· Dr Jules Goddard – Research Fellow at London Business School

· Nash Gooderham – Chief Executive Officer of Live Management Group

· Madz/Meg Wilden – Owner of Flaming Frog Design

· Denzil Vallance – Great Heck Brewery Limited

· Paul Jones – LS West Midlands

· Shaun Simmons – G Simmons & Sons

Two of the founding members are ex-cops with an impressive career in policing. As detailed at their own pages, both Peter Sheridan and Roy Ramm are experienced witness experts. They have both appeared before a Select Committee in Parliament to discuss the issue of tobacco smuggling in their police capacity. Both are now using the smuggling argument and the alleged risk of an increase in their lobby against plain packaging, in articles in the media and in Parliament – as is detailed below. Both use their credentials as former police officers to make their point, while failing to mention their involvement in the Common Sense Alliance and their links to the tobacco industry.

Sutherland is described by The Common Sense Alliance as the Former President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The Alliance’s website does not mention that he is the current Vice Chairman of The Ogilvy Group UK. The Group is part of Ogilvy & Mather, a global advertising and public relations company which has British American Tobacco as one of its largest clients worldwide. The fact that BAT is a client is not easy to find at the websites of Ogilvy & Mather or the Ogilvy Group, but on LinkedIn people specify their job with the Ogilvy Group UK as working specifically on the BAT account.[4]

Furthermore, Ogilvy has a long history of working with the Tobacco Industry, for more information see the Ogilvy Group page.

Rory Sutherland is a self-proclaimed libertarian and a fan of smoking, standing up for ‘the right to light up’. He also is a proponent of branding and as such opposed to plain packaging; more detail at the Sutherland page.

Industry Responses to the UK Plain Packaging Consultation 2012

Two of the founding members of the Alliance, Peter Sheridan and Roy Ramm, are cited as expert witnesses by tobacco companies in their submissions to the UK Consultation on Standardised Packaging (Sheridan by BAT and Ramm by PMI).

Furthermore, the plain packaging views of both Ramm and Sheridan have been quoted by the media,[5] by anti-plain packaging campaigns such as Hands Off Our Packs[6] and in personally penned pieces in both the Huffington Post and The Daily Mail :

· Sheridan guest column piece for the Daily Mail, 22 June 2012

· Ramm in the Huffington Post: Government plans for plain packaging will boost illicit trade

· Sheridan in the Huffington Post:Plain Packaging Will Create a Fertile Ground for Tobacco Smuggling

, 3 December 2012

On 9th August 2012, Peter Sheridan was listed as the Director of the BAT supported Common Sense Alliance. However in publications regarding plain packaging only his credentials as former police officer are mentioned.

‘Evidence’ presented to the House of Lords – No Mention of the Alliance

Roy Ramm letter discussed in the House of Lords, 13 March 2013

On 13th March 2013, Anna Soubry, Public Health Secretary, and Andrew Black, Tobacco Programme Manager at the Department of Health were asked to attend an inquiry on the European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) held by the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, Health and Education.

The sub-committee are “responsible for scrutinising health legislation”.[7]

The Lords in attendance were Lord Hannay of Chiswick (Chairman), Lord Avebury, Lord Blencathra, Viscount Bridgeman, Lord Richard and Lord Sharkey.[7]

During the session, Lord Blencathra refers to evidence provided in a letter by Roy Ramm (joint authored with Peter Sheridan), “who is former commander of Scotland Yard’s SOCA”. Lord Blencathra describes that the evidence that they have received from Ramm suggests that plain packaging would:

· “…give a huge boost to the counterfeit trade and that a lot of that money would go into criminal organisations, including some terrorist organisations.”

· “…give a huge boost to the counterfeit trade across Europe..” as “any kid could reproduce plain packaging on his laptop computer and a cheap printer.”

And that:

· “The tobacco manufacturers and the companies state that he best way…to prevent counterfeiting is to constantly change sophisticated packaging…”

Asked whether she accepted any of these arguments, Public Health Secretary Soubry, stated “I am afraid that I do not.” Soubry goes on to explain to the sub-committee why this is the case. (See image for an extract of the transcript.)

Later in the hearing, Viscount Bridgeman asked some questions on illicit trade based on a meeting he had with Peter Sheridan. Viscount Bridgeman asked whether counterfeit packaging would be harder to detect. Soubry responded that the term ‘plain packaging’ was misleading and that ‘standardised packaging’ would still include sophisticated security holograms.

The Lords asked that the Minister respond to the letter by Ramm and Sheridan, addressing the points made and sending a copy of any response to the Sub-Committee. Despite the high level of influence both Ramm and Sheridan achieved in this hearing, there is no mention of eithers involvement with The Common Sense Alliance. The letter in question, received upon request from the Sub-Committee was written in February 2013 by Ramm and Sheridan. It states that plain packaging would increase illicit trade and fund terrorist organisations. Once again their relationship with The Common Sense Alliance, and therefore BAT, was not disclosed.

Ramm and Sheridan letter discussed in the House of Lords, 13 March 2013

“Plain Packaging Lobbyists Under Fire Over Links to Tobacco Company”

The Common Sense Alliance was the subject of a national press story in the Observer on Sunday on the 28th April 2013: “Former police officers who gave evidence to Lords on upcoming legislation worked for Common Sense Alliance, funded by BAT”[8]


  1. Basil Dutchak, Basil Dutchak, Owner B&K Associates, LinkedIn, accessed April 2013
  2. Andy de Caso, Andy de Caso, Sales Director at SKYCIG UK, LinkedIn, accessed April 2013
  3. Madz Widen, Madz Widen, LinkedIn, accessed April 2013
  4. See for instance: LinkedIn, David Fox, accessed April 2013
  5. Steven Alexander, Plain pack cigarettes a ‘smuggler’s charter’, Belfast Telegraph, 26 September 2012, accessed April 2013
  6. Angela Harbutt, Anti-tobacco activists protest too much, Hands Off Our Packs Campaign Blog, 2 October 2012, accessed April 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 House of Lords, Unrevised transcript of evidence taken before The Select Committee on the European Union Home Affairs, Health and Education Committee, Inquiry on Tobacco Products Directive, 13 March 2013, accessed April 2013
  8. Plain Packaging Lobbyists Under Fire Over Links to Tobacco Company, the Guardian, 28 April 2013, accessed May 2013

Gudang Garam and sports endorsement

Gudang Garam and sports endorsement

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Screengrab taken from

Gudang Garam International is an Indonesian cigarette company selling kretek (clove flavoured) cigarettes of the same name. According to Euromonitor International, in 2010 Gudang Garam International held the top market share in Indonesia.[1]

The tobacco company’s website (accessed from the UK) includes the brand logo and name, yet the website focuses on Premier League football. Gudang Garam owns and actively promotes the internet-based sports channel dedicated to football, a sport which is very popular with the young, which is a concern in a country where child smoking has reached epidemic levels.[2]



The Premier League

Screengrab taken from

The Premier League is the organising body responsible for Britain’s top football division. Despite its copyright and image rights being tightly controlled,[3] in Indonesia the Premier League is promoted by Gudang Garam International, via its sports channel InterSport.[4]

Given how tightly controlled the rights are, it might come as a surprise to some that the Premier League does not have a non-tobacco promotion clause in its overseas contracts.

The Premier League has defended itself stating that it has no direct contract with the tobacco company, but it did acknowledge that its partner in Indonesia does sublicense to Gudang Garam. “Our live rights partner sublicences some Premier League matches to a channel that does [InterSport],” a spokesperson for the Premier League Nick Noble has said.

When asked what would done to break the arrangement in Indonesia, the Premier League did not answer, beyond saying the arrangement lasts from 2010-2013.[5]

The Premier League’s logo also appears in an InterSport YouTube video featuring shots of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City matches.[6]

Rio Ferdinand

In June 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported on the celebrity endorsement of Gudang Garam’s InterSport internet channel by Manchester United and England football star Rio Ferdinand.[7]

Screengrab taken from

Deborah Arnott of Action for Smoking and Health said that sponsorship deals with tobacco companies were banned in the UK because of concerns that they promoted cigarettes to young people and was quoted by the paper saying

Well over a third of 15-year-old boys in Indonesia smoke and smoking rates among the young have increased sixfold since 1995. Rio is estimated to be worth £40m and to earn more than £100,000 a week; does he really need to do this? I hope now he realises what he’s done, he’ll apologise.

Ferdinand wears the InterSport branding in YouTube and billboard ads for the sports channel, but it is not clear whether he knew that the brand was actually a cigarette brand. Indeed, according to the Guardian, Ferdinand is a “fervent anti-smoker”, who was adamant that he “was not advertising tobacco but the sports channel”.

The National Commission for Child Protection in Indonesia urged Manchester United to act immediately to remove the promotion, since Rio Ferdinand is a major role model for children and adolescents in Indonesia and around the world, said Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of The National Commission for Child Protection in Indonesia.[7]

According to the Guardian article, a spokeswoman for United said:

The contractual agreement between Rio and Gudang Garam InterSports runs to 31 October 2012, at which time all forms of advertising will cease. Both Manchester United and Rio Ferdinand are sorry for this misunderstanding and will endeavour to ensure that it is not repeated in the future.

Despite these assurances, as of June 2013, Ferdinand’s image was still being widely used by the company, including as a backdrop to the company’s Twitter feed and on the front of its Facebook page.[8]

Fernando Torres

Screengrab taken from

Ferdinand is not the only Premier League star to promote InterSport. Fernando Torres, the world famous Chelsea player, also appeared in an advert for the company which was posted on YouTube in 2010 and in June 2013 his image appears as a backdrop to the company’s Twitter feed, along with Ferdinand.[9]

It is unknown whether Torres knows that InterSport is connected to an Indonesian tobacco company, whether he has held or continues to hold a contract with the company.

Other Football Stars

The images of other football stars also appear on InterSport’s website. Again, it is unknown whether they have contracts with the company.


  1. Euromonitor International, Country Report: Tobacco in Indonesia, 2011, accessed July 2012
  2. Jonathan Miller, Indonesia’s Tobacco Children, 9 November 2012, accessed June 2013
  3. The Premier League, Copyright Information, accessed June 2013
  4. Gudang Garam International, InterSport Website, accessed June 2013
  5. Nick Noble, Personal Email to TobaccoTactics, 2 November 2012
  6. YouTube, Gudang Garam Inter Sport Barclays Premier League Footage, posted 29 January 2011, accessed June 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 Jamie Doward and Tegan Rogers, Rio Ferdinand criticised over advert linked to Asian tobacco firm, The Guardian, 16 June 2012, accessed July 2012
  8. Twitter, @ggintersport, accessed June 2013
  9. YouTube, InterSport’s Video posted 18 May 2010, accessed June 2013

YouTube – Videos from this email

BAT Funded Lobbying Against Plain Packaging

BAT Funded Lobbying Against Plain Packaging

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In general, tobacco companies are reluctant to publish any details on the causes and organisations they support. In 2013, the issue of financial contributions to lobby groups and political campaigns, was raised at the AGM of British American Tobacco (BAT). In response to questions by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), BAT provided the following information on its involvement in campaigning against Plain Packaging.



Lobbying in Australia

BAT publicly launched a national campaign against plain packaging in Australia, aimed at distributing and disseminating promotional materials, in print, radio, billboards and social media. The campaign was launched on 17 May 2011 at an event broadcasted on national TV, but BAT also states that the campaign had actually started in 2010, and ran to 2012.

  • BAT costs 2011 – 2012: AUS$ 3,482,247.[1]

According to BAT, there is no current campaign funding in Australia against plain packaging, which came in to force on 1st December 2012.[2]

It is unclear from BAT’s information, whether it’s disclosed budget included the company’s involvement with the Alliance of Australian Retailers (AAR). The AAR is a tobacco industry front group, paid for by Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and BAT. It was set up specifically to oppose the Government’s introduction of Plain Packaging in Australia, and was operated by the Melbourne based public relations firm The Civic Group (TCG). When it was launched, the AAR did not reveal its industry connections. It presented itself as a grassroots campaign created by small businesses against plain packaging. Leaked internal emails exposing the group’s links to the tobacco industry showed that the director of Philip Morris’ Corporate Affairs, Chris Argent, was instrumental in the establishment and day-to-day running of the AAR.[3][4] The leaked documents included the contract between Philip Morris and TCG, and several emails exchanged between the two.[5] One of the documents revealed that TCG received:

  • $ 1,080,860 from Imperial Tobacco Australia;
  • $ 2,200,000 from British American Tobacco;
  • $ 2,161,720 from Philip Morris Limited.

Since the document leak, the AAR disclosed on its website that the AAR is in fact supported by BAT Australia, Philip Morris Limited and Imperial Tobacco Limited, albeitin the small print


BAT Australia is a corporate member of a number of business organisations in Australia, including the Institute of Public Affairs.[2]

Lobbying in New Zealand

BAZNZ launched a national media campaign in August 2012 and according to BAT all the campaign materials (print, radio, TV and social media) clearly disclose the funding by the tobacco company. The budget for the campaign in New Zealand quoted in the information from BAT, however, was for a longer period than that disclosed:

BAT has also supported retailers In New Zealand. No further details[1] beyond a single budget for the same two years:

Lobbying in Brussels

BAT has an office in Brussels which lobbies EU institutions on a broad range of issues, including plain packaging. [1] The approximate expenditure for this office appears on the EU’s Transparency Register:

· 2010 – € 500,000

· 2011 – € 450,000

· 2012 – € 1,000,000

One of the agencies paid by BAT to lobby in Brussels is EUK Consulting. The consultancy declared payment of between €50,000 – €100,000 by BAT for each year (2010-12).[6] It is not known which other consultancies are on the pay-roll of the BAT Brussels office. BAT does however volunteer to the EU Transparency Register that it is a member of a long list of associations and networks. For 2013, the list includes American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union (AmCham EU), British Chamber of Commerce Belgium, BusinessEurope, European Policy Centre (EPC), European Risk Forum (ERF), Kangaroo Group, International Chamber of Commerce UK (ICC UK), International Trademark Association (ITA), Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy set up by the International Chamber of Commerce (BASCP ICC), Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers (CECCM), European Smoking Tobacco Association (ESTA), European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC), and the European Carton Makers Association (ECMA). For 2011, the list was even longer. No budgets were specified. The organisations mentioned include lobby groups, chambers of commerce, think tanks as well as industry networks and front groups. Only two of them declare to have BAT as a member, the European Policy Centre and the European Risk Forum.

BAT does concede that:

In the EU, our financial contributions to third party associations in the EU are not related to plain packaging in particular, but instead relate to a broad range of policy issues or activities that are of general interest to the business community and the tobacco value chain.[1]

Lobbying in the UK

In the UK, BAT has spent £2 million on corporate and regulatory issues since April 2012. This amount incorporates a wide range of lobbying activity in the UK surrounding plain packaging and revisions of the EU Tobacco Products Directive.[1]

From BAT’s information it is not clear whether this £2 million figure includes just the budget for advertising, or also incorporates campaigns undertaken by third parties, or influential think tanks. The details of BAT budgets are detailed below.

Think Tanks in the UK

In 2011, BAT gave the Institute of Economic Affairs £10,000, plus £1,000 for hosting an event. The following year it donated a further £20,000 to the institute.[1] The tobacco company is planning to increase its contribution to the IEA in 2013 and 2014, but the amount has not been formally agreed yet.[2]

Third Parties and Front Groups in the UK

The creation of front groups and the hiring of third-parties is a tactic used by the tobacco industry to conceal their involvement. As detailed above, in the case of AAR, the Retailers Association in Australia, BAT insisted everything was done in a transparent way, despite the fact that the AAR did not disclose it had been founded by the industry when it was first launched. When pressed about the funding of third parties, BAT replies that :

British American Tobacco is happy to support those who believe in the same things we do. Our support may be financial or resources in-kind but we do not tell these bodies what to say or how to spend the money.

In 2011, at the BAT AGM, just days after a categorical denial, company chairman Richard Burrows confirmed the tobacco group had funded the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) in the UK, and had met with them and Hume Brophy to discuss the campaign against the display ban.[7] According to BAT, this financial support has not extended to campaigning on plain packaging. BAT argues that “[i]n the UK, BAT has not supported the NFRN specifically for any campaigning on plain packaging. We have only contributed our normal annual subscription.”

Overall, BAT admits that it is funding the following organisations, although no budgets are provided [1] :



Disclosure of support


Hands Off Our Packs (HOOP) campaign

BAT’s support is clearly disclosed on the HOOP website.

The Common Sense Alliance

Seeks evidence-based regulation across a wide range of topics.

BAT’s support is clearly disclosed on the Common Sense Alliance website.

Rural Shop Alliance

Funding for research project.

BAT’s support is clearly identified in the report

Scottish Wholesale Association

Funding support for postcard campaign during the consultation

BAT’s support is disclosed on each postcard

Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (including the Tobacco Retailers Alliance

Funding support for postcard campaign

The TMA support (of which BAT is a member) is identified on each postcard

Part of Larger Funding

A closer examination reveals that the majority of the organisations above are funded by the industry:

· The Hands Off Our Packs campaign was set up by Forest,

· Two of the founding members of the Alliance, Peter Sheridan and Roy Ramm, are cited as expert witnesses by tobacco companies in their submissions to the UK Consultation on Standardised Packaging (Sheridan by BAT and Ramm by PMI) – without acknowledgement of their involvement with the Alliance. Both have been lobbying on plain packaging as well – again, with only their credentials as former police officer mentioned.

· The Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) is funded by the TMA and offers a free membership to all independent retailers who sell tobacco. It is set up “to campaign on issues of relevance to both their businesses and to the industry.”[8]

Third Party Lobbying Orchestrated by the Tobacco Industry

The BAT overview can also be read as a first overview of public pressure on Parliament orchestrated by the tobacco industry, undertaken by third parties. It lists the main campaigns set up to voice concerns about plain packaging, by retailers, smokers and other members of the public.

  1. Hands Off Our Packs started in February 2012 and submitted a petition of 235,000 signatures to the Governments consultation (although questions were raised about the methods to acquire signatures).
  2. The Plain Nonsense campaign of the Scottish Wholesale Association included a postcard campaign and offered an opportunity to send a message to the consultation via the Plain Nonsense website. The small print says it was supported by BAT.
  3. The TRA launched the No to Plain Packs in May 2012. Two months later, 30.000 people in retail signed paper postcards to Parliament, TRA claimed.

Not mentioned in the BAT overview is the more recent campaign launched by Forest:

4. In February 2013, at a crucial time in the plain packaging debate, with the Department of Health’s report on the consultation expected to be released in the spring 2013, Forest announced a new Hands Off Our Packs campaign: Say No to Plain Packs. Its website sends a template letter opposing plain packaging to your local MP – at a click of a button.[9]


1. Hands Off Our Packs Forest campaign material.


2. Plain Nonsense Scottish Wholesale Association’s Register Your Opposition campaign.


3. No To Plain Packs, TRA post card campaign


4. Say No To Plain Packs Forest’s Write To Your MP campaign .


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 20 May 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, second letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 18 June 2013 2013
  3. The Tobacco Files -A definitive conclusion to the debate over plain-packaging
  4. Anne Davies, ‘Big Tobacco hired public relations firm to lobby government’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 September 2010, accessed 8 June 2011
  5. Ballyhoo, Alliance of Australian Retailers Media Investment Reconciliation, 30 August 2010, Accessed February 2013
  6. EU Transparency Register, EUK Consulting, accessed August 2011 and May 2013
  7. The Guardian, BAT admits bankrolling newsagents’ tobacco campaign, 28 April 2011, accessed 15 July 2011
  8. Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance website, About the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, undated, accessed June 2013
  9. Forest, Email your MP about plain packaging, HOOPS webpage, 11 February 2013, accessed February 2013

Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance’_Alliance

Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance

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The Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) is a tobacco industry funded campaign group, representing UK independent retailers selling tobacco. Until May 2008, it was known as the Tobacco Alliance (TA).

The TRA’s website says it is a “coalition of 26,000 independent shopkeepers who all sell tobacco products” and adds that it is “funded by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association which means we can offer a free membership to all independent retailers who sell tobacco. We campaign on issues of relevance to both their businesses and to the industry”.[1] In the financial year 2000/1 the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) budgeted to spend £180,000 on the group, but forecast that the actual spend would be £190,000.[2]

TRA has been represented by the public relations (PR) companies PR21 and its sister company Edelman.[3]


History: ‘How to set up a Tobacco Alliance’

In 1983, a TA employee, Tony St Aubyn, the then assistant director of the Public Relations subcommittee of the Tobacco Advisory Council, gave a presentation to a public relations workshop in Washington called ‘How to set up a Tobacco Alliance’. He explained that UK tobacco companies saw it as part of their “total communications package”, with the TA being ” born as a communications network for all those who work in the industry, for the industry or whose livelihoods depend upon it”. There was an emphasis on encouraging others to campaign for their ‘rights’ and ‘freedom’, and one of the TA’s aims was “to help put forward the case for individual freedom to counter any moves that might further restrict the right of individuals to enjoy smoking”.[4]

Furthermore, tobacco manufacturers wanted to present the Alliance as independent from cigarette companies:

Early on we decided that it would be preferable to keep the Alliance at arms length from TAC and the industry and with its own identity and address, to emphasize to supporters, as far as is practical, that it had a degree of independence. Thus while the industry determines policy and provides the funds, the day to day management is the responsibility of our PR agents Daniel J Edelman. (TAC is the Tobacco Advisory Council, the predecessor to the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association)

The TA presentation also highlighted “the concept of Alliance ‘supporters’ rather than ‘members’ which would have required their blanket agreement on policies and views. Such agreement would have been virtually impossible in view of the diversity of the various groups”.[4]

When the Tobacco Alliance (which later became the TRA) was established the industry stated that it “would encourage its supporters to act either as individuals or as representatives of their own organisations” in order to appear as a separate entity to the industry. It was also “stressed that the Alliance was needed because in order to be heard the entire tobacco family must speak with a unified voice and with confident command of the facts…”[4]

Current Policy Positions and Campaigning

Against a Tobacco Retail Display Ban in Shops

The TRA is opposed to a ban on retail displays of tobacco in shops. Its spokesman Ken Patel says: “This measure will placed [sic] a terrible burden on small businesses like mine, and there is no evidence to suggest it would have any positive impact on youth smoking rates.”[5]

>>Save Our Shops – Lobby Campaign Funded by the Industry

TRA launched ‘Save Our Shops’, an initiative where the Tobacco Retailers Alliance would provide shops with materials to run their own campaign in-store, and get customers to demonstrate their support. Custumors could sign postcards which retailers would send on to their local MP, demonstrating that the public was against a display ban.

The campaign was a succes. MPs got hundreds of postcards bearing the Save Our Shop campaign logo, urging them not to back the government’s proposals. The cards stated: ‘As my local MP, I hope you will protect our independent local shops by opposing this proposal.’ More than 100 MPs signed an early-day motion in Parliament agreeing with the proposal that any plan to sell cigarettes under the counter should be firmly ‘evidenced-based’, a key message pushed by the Save Our Shop campaign. In December 2008, however, the Guardian exposed ‘Save Our Shops’ as a dirty trick campaign. MPs expressed dismay that the campaign had been orchestrated and funded by the tobacco companies, the paper wrote[6]

[M]any MPs had been unaware the campaign was the brainchild of the Tobacco Retailers’ Association (TRA), an offshoot of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, which represents the interests of three tobacco companies: BAT, Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco.

The Save Our Shop campaign did little to make its links with the tobacco lobby apparent and its postcards bore no reference to the connection between it and the cigarette manufacturers. The TRA, which also spoke out against the proposals, did not publicise its links with the manufacturers’ body, although the latter’s website carries a small reference to the connection between the two organisations.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-smoking group Ash, accused the tobacco lobby of ‘hiding behind the cloak of retailer respectability.’

Against Plain Packaging

According to the TRA, “Traders are concerned that a ban on branding will make life tougher for shopkeepers who sell tobacco without doing anything to reduce smoking rates.”[5]

>> No To Plain Packs – Lobby Campaign Funded by the Industry

In May 2012 the TRA launched the ‘plain packaging postcard campaign’ in response to the UK Department of Health’s consultation on standardised packaging. The campaign’s objective was to distribute ‘no to plain packs’ postcards to retailers who are then encouraged to send them to the Department of Health. TRA spokesperson John Abbott said that “it’s really important that independent retailers air their views on plain packaging through this consultation”, arguing that[7]:

When we are serving customers, it will take much longer to find the product a customer wants if they are all in plain packs and look similar.

Customers may also focus more on price if plain packaging is introduced and this will affect the turnover of retailers.

The TRA offered members arguments against plain packaging and also advise on how to respond to the consultation at its websites, and included the organisation’s own submission to the website.[8]

Throughout the duration of the consultation, retail magazines such as the Grocer and Retail Newsagent consistently featured opposition messages to plain packaging and advertised the TRA plain packaging postcard campaign.

In July 2012, the TRA reported that 30,000 retailers had so far signed postcards, demonstrating how public consultations on tobacco control measures can be flooded with industry influenced opinion.[9]

In 2013, BAT acknowledged it had granted funding support for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance postcard campaign via the TMA.[10]

Against Tobacco Smuggling

The TRA is convinced the illegal trade will profit most from plain packaging[7]:

When around one in every six cigarettes in this country is already illicit, the criminals operating out of tab houses and street markets, undercutting proper shops and not caring who they sell to, will be rubbing their hands in glee.

The TRA supports enforcement acting by Trading Standars to identify, fine and ban from selling tobacco those shops and retailers who do not take proper precaution against selling to minors.

The November 201 TRA Newsletter included a call to report instances of tobacco smuggling. To inform your MP, the Alliance offers a free 0800 number for help to find their adress. For those who want to make an anonymous call, the Newsletter refers to the Customs Hotline or contact the RTA.

Direct Lobbying Activities

The political party conference season is one of the busiest times in the Tobacco Retailers Alliance calendar. In 2011, The TRA team went to the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservative conferences, and also to the SNP conference. The report on the tour in the TRA Newsletter reads as an overview of those MPs and party-members responsive to direct lobbying.[11]

Liberal Democrats

Those who stopped by the stand at the LibDem conference included Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (and MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch); Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (and Strathspey and Twickenham MP) and Stephen Gilbert, the MP for St Austell and Newquay. Ed Davey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (and Kingston and Surbiton MP) also visited and his discussion focused on the business side of retailing. Another visitor was the Deputy Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland.


Solly Khonat raised the issue of the display ban with the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, himself!” The team also met with Camberwell and Peckam MP, Harriet Harman and with the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and “rising Labour star”, Chuka Umunna (MP for Streatham) and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Other “leading lights of the party” that stopped by the stall were the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls (MP for Morley & Outwood), Stephen Timms, the Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills (East Ham MP) and Shaun Woodward, the then Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (MP for St Helens South and Whiston) The focus of the converstations was on the the effect of tobacco smuggling on local communities.


The TRA stand was “pride of place in the exhibition area and attracted numerous visitors over the four days” and Iain Duncan Smith the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Chingford and Woodford Green MP) stopped by.

Scottish National Party

Geoff Barrett, the Scottish TRA Spokesman (left) took part in a panel discussion held by CitizenCard, the UK’s leading proof-of-age scheme. The event was entitled: “No ID No Sale; “Guess their age and face a £10,000 fine”. Also on the panel were: Edinburgh Councillor Tom Buchanan; David McNeill of Young Scot; Gordon Robb from Highland Trading Standards; Janet Hood from the British Institute of Innkeeping; and Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.

MP: Conflict of Interests?

In June 2009, then Labour MP for Tyne Bridge, David Clelland, was criticised by public health advocates for campaigning against Government plans to ban the display of cigarette packets in shops and newsagents without declaring a family link to a senior TRA lobbyist. The Sun newspaper reported that Clelland is the stepfather of Katherine Graham, who was the TRA’s campaign manager. The MP told the newspaper that the family link had no impact on his views, and that he did not declare this link “because he didn’t want to give the impression he was raising issues in Parliament because his stepdaughter worked for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance”.[12]

Public Relations Strategies in 2000

Until 2000 public relations (PR) firm Edelman was contracted to represent the TA, but in late 2000 the TMA re-tendered the contract. [13] At the time, strong evidence was emerging that tobacco manufacturers were heavily involved in tobacco smuggling (see the pages on Imperial and Gallaher Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling and BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling). There was mounting concern among the public and politicians about the amount of money being lost to the public purse as a result of the companies’ complicity. This was a central issue that the successful applicant would have to address.

An internal tobacco industry document, including a ‘summary of agency pitches’, reveals that four PR companies were invited to present their proposals.[14] All information and quotations in this section are from this document unless an alternative source is cited.

Below is an overview of how each agency pitched their proposal to the TMA.

‘Reposition TA as an originator of research’

Corporate Responsibility Consulting (CRC) – a firm that works for British American Tobacco and has run the TMA-funded Atmosphere Improves Results Initiative since 1997[15][16] – put in a joint bid with public affairs company BFi. The team for the presentation included Oliver Griffiths and Charles Baldwin for CRC, and Dee Fernandez and David Armstrong for BFi.

Their main proposal was to “emphasise damage to retailers”, “broaden the ally base”, “reposition TA as originator of research studies” and “talk up community dimension” including a possible campaigning called ‘Community Action on Tobacco Smuggling’. Their budget was £197,000.

The TMA’s verdict was that CRC had a “good global overview based on current knowledge but plans overambitious within constraints of current budget. ‘Mix and match’ with BFi potentially a difficulty”.[14]

‘Change TA’s name’

Brook Wilkinson (BW) put in a bid with a company called Media Strategy “to augment [its] political and media expertise”. BW was already working for the TMA.[17] The presenting team included *Rosemary Brook and Trudi Smith for BW, and Charles Lewington and Karen Alcock for Media Strategy.

BW wanted to “redefine TA objective to limiting tobacco tax rises to level of inflation”, “act fast to take advantage of ‘election fever’”, “widen TA’s partner base”, “change TA name in order to remove ‘tobacco’ – Shopkeepers Opposed to Smuggling suggested” and “encourage greater dialogue/feedback with retailers”. Their budget was £150,000 plus “extra disbursements” including “party conference stands”.

The TMA’s verdict? “Realistic approach based on existing knowledge of TA achievements to date. Involvement of Media Strategy will add value but at a cost. Paul Mason [spokesperson for TA] not keen on new name for TA.”[14]

‘Gather intelligence and have instant rebuttal’

The third agency that was invited to present was PR21, who’s presentation team included Jonathan Hopkins, who was responsible for planning, Joe Brice client management and Nick Tennant for media relations.

The TMA noted that PR 21 provided an “in-house Labour/Conservative mix. Hopkins ex Labour Party/Trades Union campaign adviser. Brice former adviser to Sebastian Coe”.

PR21 proposed to emphasise “relationship building programmes”, “play up community angle and personalise the argument – eg, your shopkeeper, your town, etc”, “work on key decision makers and the circles of influence around them, especially in regions”, “gather competitor intelligence and have instant rebuttal response”, “use website to capture and manage information” and “set up ‘Working to Stop Smuggling’ round table forum in August. They would charge £169,900.

The TMA thought PR21 had a “sharp edged ‘New Labour’ approach to the brief” and would provide a “smooth adoption and harmonization of the Edelman pedigree”. They would offer a “no frills programme which could achieve least disruptive transition”.[14]

‘Rebut manufacturers’ complicity

The fourth agency to present was PPS, including Mark Pendlington, Richard Mollet, Dr Steve John, andPhilippa White


PPS offered a core team based in London “but supplemented by PPS regional network in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Southampton, Cambridge and Leeds”. It suggested promoting “greater public awareness through advertising campaign and regionalized campaigning”, “personalising the cost – criminality, counterfeit, cost per voter/household”, “changing of TA name to ‘Anti-Smuggling Alliance’ to achieve common cause with other sectors”, “rebuttal of ‘manufacturers’ complicity’, ‘doesn’t affect me’, ‘can’t stop smugglers’” and better use of technology “to keep retailers informed and motivated”. Their charge was £114,000 “plus flexible disbursements on projects”.

The TMA thought PPS had a “well researched and presented pitch, manifest commitment to the project and advantage of ‘fresh blood’ approach. Strong intellectual rigour with likely, but untested, ‘hands on’ application. Regional network a bonus.”[14]

It is interesting to note that the PPS proposal emphasised defending tobacco manufacturers against allegations of complicity in smuggling, even though the proposal was to represent retailers who were being undercut by the illegal trade.

The TMA decided to award the contract to PR21 in December 2000. The company started the work on 15 January 2001.[18]


  1. Tobacco Retailers Alliance website, About the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, undated, accessed 23 January 2012
  2. Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, Statement to Accompany Account Submitted to TMA Board of Directors, 20 February 2001, accessed 23 January 2012
  3. TMA Campaign Group, Minutes of meeting, 11 January 2001, accessed 23 January 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Tony St Aubyn, How to set up a Tobacco Alliance, Tobacco Alliance, 20 September 1983, accessed 31 January 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 TRA, Retailers’ disappointment at Lansley’s back-track on display ban, undated, accessed 31 January 2012
  6. Jame Doward, MPs fall foul of ‘dirty’ tricks by tobacco giants, the Guardian, 14 Dec 2008, accessed May 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance, Retailer Plain Packaging Postcard Campaign Launched, 11 May 2012, accessed 31 May 2012
  8. See both and, which are almost identical today, also under the tab ‘plain packaging’, accessed May 2013
  9. Tobacco Retailer’s Alliance, 30,000 shop staff against plain packaging, 2012, accessed August 2012
  10. Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 20 May 2013
  11. Tobacco Retailers Alliance, Newsletter, November 2011, accessed June 2013
  12. Coreena Ford, ‘MP David Clelland blasted over “smokescreen”‘, Sunday Sun, 21 June 2009, accessed 31 January 2012
  13. TMA, Tobacco Alliance Account, 19 December 2000, accessed 30 January 2012
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 TMA, Tobacco Alliance Account Summary of Agency Pitches, undated, accessed 30 January 2012
  15. CRC website, Our work, undated, accessed 24 January 2012
  16. Air Initiative website, Air Initiative homepage, undated, accessed 24 January 2012
  17. Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, Campaign Group Meeting, 10 December 1998, accessed 23 January 2012
  18. TMA, Tobacco Alliance Account, 19 December 2000, accessed 30 January 2012

ASH Briefing: UK Tobacco Control Policy and Expenditure

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