The tobacco industry is covertly using third-party companies to lobby against smoking restrictions and to gain access to health documents held by public organisations.
Public-relations companies and law firms are working on behalf of anonymous multinational tobacco companies without declaring the identity of their clients, according to an investigation by i. The third parties refused to confirm they are working on behalf of tobacco firms when they made freedom of information requests from universities and other public bodies.
The public relations company Bell Pottinger and the London law firm Clifford Chance have both requested information from public organisations without revealing they were working on behalf of tobacco firms.
The Irish PR company Hume Brophy also carried out a campaign against the ban on cigarette displays in shops on behalf of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents without stating it was funded by the tobacco industry.
Alex Deane, a former chief of staff to David Cameron, played a key role in attempts to use the freedom of information law against a public organisation involved in promoting awareness of the health dangers of roll-up tobacco, i has established. Mr Deane is a director of Bell Pottinger which requested documents from an organisation funded by the NHS, the Bristol-based Smoke Free South West, after a campaign it ran against roll-up tobacco.
Soon after this informal request, Smoke Free South West received a formal FOI request for the same documentation from Big Brother Watch, a group founded by Mr Deane.
"Big Tobacco's dirty little secret is how they get others to do their dirty work." Martin Dockrell of campaign group Action on Smoking and HealthReuse content