Tobacco firms conspired to prevent anti-smoking laws
PUBLIC health investigators have uncovered a decades-long conspiracy by the tobacco industry to halt the spread of smoke-free pubs and restaurants.
Internal documents which have come into the public domain through litigation in the US show how major cigarette companies bankrolled hospitality trade associations and even set up their own front organisation to pursue their goal.
An analysis of industry documents published today in the journal Tobacco Control shows how firms preyed on spurious fears that no-smoking policies would result in lost profits, promoting the idea that no-smoking sections and expensive ventilation systems would address concerns about passive smoking.
The documents show that the industry began its campaign in the 1970s, intensifying it in the face of mounting evidence of the harmful effects of passive smoking and the threat of legislation.
An industry analyst suggested that legislation would slice off nearly Â£700m a year of revenue.
When Beverly Hills in California banned smoking in public entertainment venues, the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association persuaded the authorities to allow smoking and non-smoking sections instead, on the grounds that business had fallen by 30%.
In reality, the association had been created by a public relations firm acting on the industry's behalf, say the authors.
"Sales tax figures subsequently revealed that profits had not suffered at all. But this success led the industry to use these tactics elsewhere," said Dr Stanton Glantz, of the University of California in San Francisco.
The documents also show that tobacco manufacturers gave donations to more than 65 hospitality groups around the US, and the International Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Cafes, active mainly in Europe.
The authors say that this strategy provided (and continues to provide) a front for the industry to oppose clean indoor air legislation, and encourage pro-industry voluntary measures that would not affect smoking.
The industry does not appear to have been concerned with the health risks posed to staff, the report also says.
The findings came as no surprise to Maureen Moore, chief executive of ASH in Scotland, which with the Health Education Board for Scotland is monitoring the introduction of smoke-free zones in pubs under a voluntary charter introduced by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.
She said: "Voluntary agreement has not worked in the past. That is why we are trying to get legislation.
"We have to cut through the rubbish produced by the tobacco industry. Most people in Scotland don't smoke so takings will go up rather than down if smoke-free areas are made available."