Tobacco Advisory Council

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC) was a British tobacco industry trade and lobbying group that served as the U.K. equivalent of the Tobacco Institute in the US. It was the de facto National Manufacturers Association (NMA), based in London, and the tobacco lobbying group in Britain which was the equivalent of the Tobacco Institute in the U.S.

Until September 1979 it had been known as the Tobacco Research Council.

TAC primarily operated to delay and obstruct tobacco control legislation and preserve the social acceptability of smoking. Member companies included the Gallaher, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, and Rothmans Tobacco. TAC engaged in various programs and activities aimed at confusing the public about the scientific consensus that secondhand smoke harms the health of nonsmokers. The public relations company Daniel J. Edelman Ltd. (now known as Edelman), assisted TAC and in 1987 prepared a proposal, "Managing the ETS [Environmental Tobacco Smoke] Issue" that stated the overall strategy was to "maintain doubt" about the health effects of secondhand smoke "principally via third parties." [2]

Minutes of a 1979 meeting of a subcommittee of the Tobacco Advisory Council describe plans to set up the smokers' rights group FOREST (an acronym that stands for "Freedom Organisation for the Right To Enjoy Smoking Tobacco"). FOREST was to act as product-free, arm's length lobbying group for the tobacco industry with no apparent ties to tobacco companies. [3] In the meeting, members of the tobacco industry rehearsed how they would distance themselves from the group when answering press inquiries about FOREST after its launch, saying "T.A.C. should reply that while they were aware of its existence, [the industry] had no connection with the new organization...]. " The General Manager of Public Affairs at Gallaher Tobacco stated that "his company should reply that FOREST was an independent organisation, that it seemed a good idea for it to support smokers and that the company provided financial support and nothing more." [4] FOREST was supposed to appear to the public to be independent from the industry, but it derived its funding almost completely from tobacco companies and their allies.

This type of "smokers rights" front group activity by the British tobacco industry preceded similar activity by U.S. tobacco companies, such as R.J. Reynolds' "Partisan Project" (c. 1987) and Philip Morris' National Smokers Alliance (c. 1993).

Documents and Timelines

1978 Sep 11 Frank Colby, an American RJ Reynolds executive who specialised in scientific disinformation, reported to his company on a trip to Europe and his meeting the head of the Verband (German Tobacco Institute), Dr Harald Koenig and the Medical Director, Dr Franz Adlkofer along with Mr E Jacob (US tobacco lawyer) ; Mr W Dembach (RJ Reynolds, Cologne), and Dr C Nystrom RY Reynolds US science corruption executive),

The Tobacco Research Council , London, has been renamed Tobacco Advisory Council. The Tobacco Research Council was headed by Sir Clifford Garrett , assisted by -- among others -- Miss E. Beacock, Librarian. Other employees of interest of that organization were and are, Mr Peter Lee,. statistician, (and) Dr. Francis Roe, bioscientist with emphasis on carcinogenesis.

Since my last visit to London, Sir Clifford and Miss Beacock both have retired. As a matter of fact, they married each other.

The new head of the former Tobacco Research Council is a retired British army general, Sir James Wilson. We were unable to meet with Sir James since he was on a trip, and it would have required a second visit on our part to meet him. Since, allegedly, he stresses to all visitors that his knowledge about tobacco, as well as on smoking and health, is negligible, we did not see a second visit warranted.

Mr Lee (of TRC and TAC) indicated to us that he was somewhat apprehensive regarding the future policies of the Tobacco Advisory Council, in part indicating fears that there would be a curtailment of research and/or that there would be "excessive control" of the research by the British Industry executives.

In view of this changed climate, Mr. Lee indicated that he was considering to change his status from full time staff to consultant.

1979 Feb 13 Peter N Lee has written asking Tobacco Advisory Council for financial support for him to attend a London conference being held at Charing Cross. He suggests that the TAC should also offer financial support to the symposium:

Mr. R.M. Greenhalgh of Charing Cross Hospital Medical School phoned me on 7th February telling me that they were planning to organise an International Symposium on Smoking and Arterial Disease in June (shortly before the Stockholm World Conference on Smoking and Health):

His main reason for phoning was to see whether there was any possibility that TAC or one of its member companies might be able to contribute towards the expenses of getting speakers from America and the continent. He also suggested I might want to give a paper myself.

This Symposium is highly relevant to TAC's research interests and for that reason I am sure that I should go to it. This is especially the case in view of the fact that it occurs shortly before the Stockholm World Conference.

[Re funding Symposium] I think that there is a good case.for making some contribution. There are three reasons for this.

  • Firstly, the general public relations one that the Industry should be seen to be supporting research of great relevance to the smoking problem.
  • Secondly, it could be exceedingly useful to have advance copies of the papers to be presented and I am sure that financial support would facilitate this.
  • Thirdly, one might be able to influence what speakers are actually invited.

The latter point would have to be thought through by the Research Committee members (trying to get Carl Seltzer over again is one obvious possibility), as would the question of whether the pigeon paper is to be presented and also whether I might speak (on quite what I am not sure), but on balance I think some support is desirable. Clearly there is no need for the Industry to contribute the whole costs.My recomendation is therefore that TAC offer £1,000.

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