As chief executive of SGF, I am well aware of my obligations to declare our members legally and responsibly sell tobacco products and that we have links with some tobacco companies in the same way as we do with producers of milk, bread or confectionery.
I do not, however, share the view of Ms Duffy that this, therefore, precludes SGF or retailers from playing a role in determining public health policies. A point, I would suggest, with which the Scottish Government would agree given our close working relationship through its Alcohol Industry Partnership and the SGF Healthy Living Programme, to support public health objectives and promote wellbeing.It has also been ASH's faith that shops are capable only of representing the interests of tobacco companies, when in fact they have their own interests to defend as low-margin operations in a huge and aggressive market. Even if they wanted to put tobacco interests before their own (a most unlikely scenario) it would not necessarily benefit them to do so. Action on Health's shamelessly aggressive list of people whose views simply cannot be taken seriously in relation to plain packaging betray a lack of respect for participative democracy. You simply cannot exclude people from public debate on the assumption that their links with tobacco will dictate everything they contribute.
Drummond points out that 'retailers do not have the luxury of organisations like Ms Duffy’s to derive most of their income from public purse', and concludes:
In summary, a desire for transparency should cut both ways. Just as SGF has to declare its interests Ms Duffy’s organisation – paid for by government to tell it what it wants to hear – should be open to the same scrutiny.The more the tobacco company stooge list circulates, the more people's awareness will grow that a publicly funded organisation wants to limit the voice of ordinary people on public health issues, just because their lives might have a tangential, or even tenuous link at some level with Big Tobacco.
And don't forget: there is a slippery slope: see interview: