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Tobacco industry funding fight against plain cigarette packaging

THREE trade groups leading the fight against the introduction of plain packaging of cigarettes have received fees or funding from tobacco companies.

Brian Madderson, the chairman of Petrol Retailers Association, is adamant that plain packaging is not the way forwardMain photograph: Getty Images
Brian Madderson, the chairman of Petrol Retailers Association, is adamant that plain packaging is not the way forwardMain photograph: Getty Images

Representative bodies for grocers, petrol stations and wholesalers -all of which are lobbying against a policy supported by the Scottish and UK Governments - have taken money from a multi-billion pound tobacco industry opposed to the restrictions.

Plain packaging would remove branding and result in standardised health warnings across tobacco products, a policy campaigners believe will result in a fall in consumption.

ASH Scotland - the anti-smoking charity - condemned the tobacco industry for using "front" organisations.

Scottish Government ministers even gave David Cameron's administration permission to enact the measure on their behalf.

This has triggered a round of lobbying at Holyrood and Westminster.

Three groups in particular - the Scottish Grocers' Federation (SGF), the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) and the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) - have been vocal in their opposition.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson hit out at the support for plain packaging, urging both governments to "pause and thoroughly review the wider, detrimental impacts it will have before it is too late".

His organisation, which represents 5300 independent UK filling stations, revealed a member survey last month showed concern about plain packaging. But it was funded by Philip Morris Limited, a cigarette firm.

The group says that tobacco manufacturers and suppliers are among its "associates and retail members".

The SWA, which is based in Edinburgh, launched its Plain Nonsense campaign in 2012 as an early attempt to head off the plans, arguing there was "no credible evidence" that plain packaging would reduce smoking.

But the campaign was "made possible" by "support" from British American Tobacco (BAT) UK Ltd.

James Barge, the head of regulatory affairs at Philip Morris, is a scheduled speaker at the organisation's conference next month.

The SGF - a trade body for convenience stores - has also lobbied the Scottish and UK governments.

In a letter to the Chancellor in March, the SGF urged him to consider the "serious impact" of the policy which it said would harm jobs.

The SGF website states that three tobacco firms - JTI, Imperial and Philip Morris - hold "gold" corporate memberships costing £9999 per year.

But Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: "The tobacco companies are not trusted, but they are wealthy and so they generally recruit or create other voices to front their campaigns. They do this in a number of ways, including funding their own support groups and through their ties with organisations they give financial support to, such as the Scottish Grocers' Federation.

"Tobacco industry-funded claims that plain packs will not deter young people from taking up smoking, will damage trade for small shops and lead to a growth in illicit tobacco are unfounded and unreliable."

John Lee, the public affairs adviser for the Scottish Grocers' Federation, said: "The policy direction and the policy priorities of SGF are decided on solely by our National Executive, which is made up entirely of retailer representatives.

"Corporate members are not ­represented on the National Executive and have no say in the development of our political or campaigning activities."

Madderson said: "The PRA has business relationships with a wide range of companies that supply products and services to the independent petrol forecourt sector. Tobacco is one such product line."

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