Inside the world's most lethal industry

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way under President Tabaré Ramó* Vázquez Rosas, a former oncologist. In 2006 it became the first in the region to ban smoking in public places and now it wants 80 per cent of every pack of cigarettes to be taken up with health warnings.

In response, Philip Morris has sued the government. It is thought that the company will demand at least $2bn in damages if Uruguay loses.

Courtroom bullying like this has a broader intimidatory effect on other governments in the region, which were already less inclined towards legislating further against smoking.

Laurent Huber, director of the Framework Convention Alliance on tobacco control, said: "In countries like Uruguay, the tobacco industry uses its vast wealth to tie up public health measures in court battles. Win or lose, this has a chilling effect on other governments."

These tricks are by no means confined to the less-regulated emerging countries. In Australia, which will become the first country to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes by law, the industry has been accused of scaremongering against the measures by threatening to flood the market with cheap fags.

In Britain, the industry is also prone to taking any measures necessary to keep regulation at bay. This autumn a group of tobacco companies is taking the Government to court over its proposals to ban cigarette displays in all shops.

More often in the UK, though, Big Tobacco's attempts to alter public opinion are more subtle. A study from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), out this week, scrutinises the credibility of economic arguments used by the industry to fight back against legislation. For example, when Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, said in 2010 that the smoking ban had severely threatened the pub and bingo industry because of lost jobs and livelihoods, the reality was a little different. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows a net increase in the number of people visiting pubs since the smoking ban. When England went smoke-free in 2007, the number of premises licensed for alcohol increased by 5 per cent, and it has continued to grow every year since.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: "In line with our international treaty obligations, the UK government has not only banned advertising and put health warnings on packs, but also committed to protect public health policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry. To get round this, the industry uses front groups to covertly lobby politicians, arguing that smoke-free legislation has destroyed the pub trade, and that putting tobacco out of sight in shops will both be ineffective and put corner shops out of business.

"The next big battle is over putting cigarettes in plain packs. Already the same arguments are being used. The evidence is thin or non-existent, but no matter, the danger is that policy makers will be misled that where there's smoke, there's fire."

the winners

the losers

Sharon Gould, 53, and her son Ben, 10

From Whetstone, Leicestershire



"I started smoking when I was 14. I quit when I was pregnant with Ben but then I started again. I used to smoke in the house when he was in another room, or smoke in the car with the window down. Ben was around two when we discovered he had asthma. I understand what I've done and I want to put it right. I gave up three years ago. It's too late for Ben, but I want to help other parents not make the same mistakes. It could be genetic, but statistics say that I am partly responsible for my son's asthma. It was Ben that made me stop. Ben didn't like smoking and I don't blame him. He used to say 'Please mummy, don't smoke, it's horrible.' "

Sean Nicholson, 43

From Jarrow, Tyne and Wear



"I started smoking when I was 11. I worked in the shipyards for 15 years and always smoked. I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at 34, and later on it turned out I had emphysema too. The specialists said I was the youngest case they had ever seen. Soon I couldn't breathe if I walked a few steps. The consultants said I had the lungs of a 90-year-old. Seven weeks ago I had a double lung transplant. Now I can breathe again and I can't stand the sight of people smoking. It took getting new lungs to realise how silly I'd been."

Ryan Gamble, 17

From Chester-le-Street, Durham



"I've smoked for about six years. I started because my friends were doing it and I just kept the habit going. I hated it at first, I choked. I smoke about 10 or 15 a day and it's hard to quit. I work in a chip shop and half of my wages go on that [smoking]. I wish I'd never started. You wake up coughing and you can't run anywhere."

José Carlos Carneiro, 64

From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil



"I began to smoke when I was 15 years old, influenced by tobacco advertising and wanting to make a good impression with girls who studied at my school. I had both my legs amputated in 1983 thanks to Buerger's disease [associated with smoking]. If I had not been a smoker I would have a fantastic life."

Louis C

Camilleri

CEO of Philip Morris

Made £12.4m last year. Recently told a nurse that cigarettes "weren't that hard to quit".

Nicandro Durante

CEO, British American Tobacco (BAT)

Paid £2.4m last year. Formerly led Souza Cruz SA, BAT's Brazilian unit, and also headed BAT's African and Middle Eastern businesses.

Alison Cooper

CEO, Imperial

Paid £1.9m last year. Former sales and marketing regional director for western Europe.

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