Don’t trust report funded by tobacco industry

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THE Scottish Government’s commitment to introducing plain, standardised packs for tobacco has been welcomed by health groups, children’s charities and most MSPs. All of these accept the research evidence that standardised packs will make tobacco less appealing to young people. In contrast, it has been hard to find groups opposing the move that do not have financial links to tobacco companies.

And this is the nub of the matter. For all their insistence that removing the brands and logos from cigarette packs “won’t work”, the tobacco companies are scared enough to spend millions of pounds on projects opposing the idea.

Experience tells us to expect a series of reports, paid for by tobacco companies, predicting economic and social ruin if they are not allowed to promote their addictive products in designed, branded packs. The latest effort (“Plain cigarette packs ‘will cost 3,000 jobs’”, News, 18 August) is a case in point. Should we believe a study, paid for by tobacco company Philip Morris, which claims the GDP of Northern Ireland will reduce by 0.4 per cent to 0.7 per cent if our children are protected in this way? This is familiar territory because the same scare stories were wheeled out, often by “independent” researchers paid by Big Tobacco money, when Australia introduced this legislation last year. Ten months after implementing standardised packs the dire predictions have not come to pass.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research, authors of this latest report, have form. When tobacco companies were opposing plans to remove tobacco displays from shops they brought in the CEBR to write a report concluding that serving times following a display ban could double. It makes for good headlines – but it didn’t happen.

The chief executives of multi­national tobacco companies are among the hardest-nosed business interests around. Their eye is fixed on the bottom line. Yet something has persuaded them to spend millions of pounds opposing the introduction of standardised packs for tobacco – perhaps they believe it will work?

Jackie Brock, Children in Scotland; Marjory Burns, British Heart Foundation Scotland; James Cant, British Lung Foundation; Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK; Sheila Duffy, ASH Scotland; Dr Charles Saunders, British Medical Association Scotland