‘The muscle and money of Big Tobacco’ – David Cronin in euobserver.com

David Cronin, author of Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013), has written a piece for the euobserver.com blog about the lobbying power of the tobacco industry in the face of proposed EU legislation to make all cigarette packaging a dull, mandatory white.

We’ve reproduced an extract of the article below. You can read it in full on the euobserver.com blog, here. To buy David’s book for the special price of just £11.20 (40% off) including free UK P&P, paste this link into your browser, or click on the cover image below.

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David Cronin

CRONIN T02682Few issues are more black-and-white than smoking. Speak to any conscientious doctor and he or she will advise you either to quit the fags or never take them up.

Despite that clarity, the tobacco industry tries to seduce us with a variety of shades. In his magnificent book Golden Holocaust, Robert Proctor refers to a marketing paper drawn up by cigarette-makers Brown & Williamson in 1978. “Light colours connect with light tasting,” it read. “Combinations of yellow, orange and red now equate to smoking enjoyment. Certain blues are contradictory to smoking enjoyment and can denote strength and coldness. Other blues are prestigious, though in a passive sense.”

As the idea of selling cigarettes in plain packaging would undermine decades of strategising, it’s little wonder that Big Tobacco has been striving to scupper any moves in that direction. Australia’s government was commendably stubborn enough last year to insist that all cigarette boxes be a sickly green and covered with lurid health warnings. The EU’s main institutions, by contrast, have proven more malleable.

Data entered into a register of “interest representatives” run by the European Commission indicates that tobacco firms spared no expense in seeking to torpedo a plain packaging proposal during 2012.

British American Tobacco (BAT) says it shelled out up to €1 million on lobbying in Brussels last year — more than twice what it declared for 2011. Philip Morris spent up to €1.25 million for the same purpose in 2012 andJapan Tobacco International spent up to €600,000. Imperial Tobacco, meanwhile, spent up to €250,000 between October 2011 and September 2012.

Umbrella groups bringing together a number of firms also mobilised to save the shades. The Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers had a lobbying war-chest of around €700,000 last year. TheEuropean Smoking Tobacco Association hasn’t provided figures for 2012 but claims to have spent about €400,000 the previous year.

All this muscle and money had an effect. Following a controversy involving the dismissal of its health chief John Dalli, the European Commission finally got round to proposing a revised “tobacco products” law in December 2012. Rather than opting for an Australian-style approach to plain packaging across the entire surface of cigarette boxes, the Commission recommended that 30% of each packet could be reserved for branding.

Not content with that concession, the cigarette industry is now trying to weaken the draft law further. MEPs were supposed to decide whether to approve the law. By postponing the vote until October, they have given Big Tobacco more time to apply pressure.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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