Martin Broughton, the outgoing chairman of British American Tobacco, launched a scathing attack on the Government's anti-smoking regulations yesterday as he in turn came under a barrage of criticism from MPs and environment and health campaigners.
He told the BAT annual meeting the anti-smoking rules could "harass, offend and socially exclude" people who smoked, and he accused policymakers of bringing in laws that were "cut and pasted" from pressure group proposals.
"Some health policymakers show signs of having been 'captured' by narrowly based, vociferous anti-tobacco activists, who are sometimes even funded by the regulators they are lobbying," said Mr Broughton, who is leaving to chair British Airways later this year. "An example is the growing use of 'graphic image' health warnings, which threaten our intellectual property rights and can harass consumers - yet in fact give them no more information than print warnings."
As well as his assault on regulation, Mr Broughton hit out at the National Association of Pension Funds for swamping companies with corporate governance guidelines. It has published its own corporate governance proposals, alongside the new combined code of corporate governance.
David Taylor, the Labour and Co-operative MP for North Leicestershire, challenged Mr Broughton's reflection on his tenure as chairman. Mr Broughton said it had been "a great 10 years for consumers", but Mr Taylor said some 7.5 million BAT customers around the world had died of smoke-related illnesses in the past 10 years.
The board was also attacked by representatives of Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid and Ash, who accused BAT of failing to stop deforestation in its tobacco plantations and over-using harmful pesticides on its crops.
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