Thank you for smoking.

Posted 24th March 2015 by Dave Cross
Although appertaining to traditional cigarettes, ABC Australia report that the state of Tasmania is moving to ban their sale to anyone born after the year 2000. In a survey of 600 Tasmanians, 87.9% spoke in favour of such a decision but it will not be plain sailing for the government of the island state. Imperial Tobacco has rolled out their Head of Corporate and Legal Affairs to command an intensive lobbying program.

The man concerned, Andrew Gregson, trots out some typical quotes for the media: “People getting to around retirement age like myself won't be able to retire. We're becoming a nanny state; Australia is supposed to be a free country. We've got an anniversary coming up for our Anzacs this year that went to war to give us the opportunity to be a free country. Smoking is a free choice, once you're of the age.”

Lobbying is vitally important to tobacco companies, fully aware of the declining traditional market, and it’s a war to be fought on all fronts for them. The tighter the regulations placed on cigarettes, the more they can see ground being taken away from them in emerging nicotine markets like electronic cigarettes. They fear the all-out approach of the likes of Singapore.

Misguidedly, the Singapore government see ecigs as a route into not away from smoking and are looking to ban all smokeless tobacco and vaping products – the two areas Big Tobacco want to exploit to replace lost sales.

Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Health Secretary, said: “We are concerned about the health risks of such products and have been studying ways to address this growing trend.” Combatting such views requires a balanced approach from companies wishing to exploit those markets and yet not aiding current ecig or juice manufacturers. For tobacco firms, this is not about market education but chess moves to market dominance.

So this week’s article headed Flower shows and festivals: tobacco industry hospitality and MP voting in The Guardian will come as no surprise to onlookers. It carries a link from the Independent stating: “Plain cigarette packaging: One in four MPs who opposed measures have declared links to tobacco industry.”

Regardless of how one feels about the topic of plain packaging for cigarettes, the influence being exerted over MPs by tobacco lobbyists will impact on the future of vaping in the UK. MPs who have been taken to Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon, cricket test matches, the opera at Glyndebourne and slap-up noshes at the Berkley Hotel; thirty seven MPs, thirty of whom are Tories in government.

Dr Olivia Maynard writes: “This is yet another way that the tobacco industry is managing to undermine Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (a global health treaty on tobacco control). All countries that have signed this Treaty (including the UK) are required to take steps to restrict tobacco industry interference in tobacco policymaking.”

“The tobacco industry has a strong incentive to influence decision makers against any further regulation of its business, so it is important that we continue to monitor attempts made by the industry to lobby MPs, to ascertain whether this has any bearing on their voting behaviour,” she continues – and as vapers waiting for the implementation of Article 20 of the TPD, we need to be watching them like hawks.


Top Photo credit: Cigarette via photopin cc

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker