Like many advocates of smoking bans he sees tobacco as unique in its bad health effects. In spite of an increasing public health focus on drink, salt and now sugar, tobacco trumps all in its capacity to blight lives. However, as people point out increasingly, notwithstanding the UK government's professed concern for health it faces millions in fines for exceeding outdoor pollution limits set by Europe.
Because tobacco has uniquely damaging effects on human health, public health departments take an interest in tobacco. They do the same with alcohol, salt and now sugar. Output from the really big corporations, which include military–industrial corporations, remains outside the interest of public health: systemic impacts on public health including bad housing quality, chronic employment insecurity, sales of school playing fields and the more direct effects of industrial and post-industrial pollution are all conditions that we must live with: health improvement means the modification of lifestyle factors.
Needless to say I take Lord Faulkner's factoid that tobacco kills one in every two smokers with a very large pinch of salt. This stupendous figure justifies his proud description of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: after describing the behaviour of lobbyists, he goes on:
Tackling such entrenched and profitable vested interests is never easy. That is why Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention is so crucial. It clearly states that when political parties are setting and implementing public health policies related to tobacco control, they shall ‘act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.’What makes tobacco so unique?
The industry is desperate to get the ear of politicians, warning of the dire consequences of better health policies, undermining the evidence presented by doctors and scientists. It does this by providing a little advice here, a little hospitality there and some very generous speaker’s fees.Isn't this what lobbyists all do?
And to reach those who won’t talk directly to the tobacco companies themselves, they use front groups often without making explicit tobacco industry links and funding. Most recently they funded retailer groups like the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Tobacco Retailers Alliance to argue against putting tobacco out of sight in shops,The NFRN is seen here explaining its acceptance of tobacco industry money in order to campaign against the legislation. The Tobacco Retailers' Association acknowledges support from the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association at the foot of its website. Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco), the only tobacco-funded campaigning group for tobacco consumers, carries a disclaimer on its website:
Forest is supported by British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Limited and Gallaher Limited (a member of the Japan Tobacco Group of Companies). The views expressed on this or any other Forest-affiliated website are those of Forest alone.People like Lord Faulkner seem incapable of believing that an organisation receiving funding from tobacco companies can retain an independent view. Payment from the tobacco industry implies that the groups concerned don't even have an independent view – they just want to put forward the view of their suppliers, even though independent retailers represent a sector in their own right – a sector that is struggling.
To ensure the implementation of Article 5.3, he wants Andrew Lansley (Health Minister) to ensure the publication of all dealings between the tobacco industry and government officials. As for organisations he imagines are in receipt of industry funding:
“Smokers’ rights groups” and retailer front groups will continue to claim they have a right to be heard. Perhaps so, but they should no longer have the right to hide from Parliament the payments and briefings they receive from tobacco corporations. The tobacco companies will still have the right to discuss how they comply with government health policies. They should no longer be the arbiters of what those policies should be.I have a tip for Lord Faulkner. He would find it much easier if he simply accepted briefings from the tobacco industry. Then he would not need to worry about whether independent retailers (or Forest for that matter) were giving him the tobacco industry perspective covertly. Or perhaps it is easier to reject tobacco companies' views and dismiss everyone else as 'useful idiots'.