Australia’s Health Minister has accused the UK Government of dropping plans to introduce blank cigarette packaging due to pressure from tobacco companies and one of their former lobbyists now working for the Conservatives.
Tanya Plibersek picked out Lynton Crosby – an Australian election adviser who has links to Philip Morris, one of the Big Four tobacco firms – as one of the main factors in the UK’s decision not to emulate her country in restricting cigarette packaging to single-coloured boxes emblazoned with graphic images of smoking-related diseases. “I think this does show the continued effort of big tobacco to prevent plain packaging,” Ms Plibersek said. “It’s very clear Lynton Crosby has been a key adviser in this move to dump plain packaging in the UK.”
Her intervention echoes those of the former UK Health minister Paul Burstow – who has said the Prime Minister should sack Mr Crosby – and Steven Williams, the Liberal Democrat chair of the all-party group on smoking and health, who said the link presented a “massive conflict of interest”.
Mr Crosby’s lobbying firm, Crosby Textor, has been employed by Philip Morris since November to offer “advice on a range of matters”. The company also represents Australian groups who campaign aggressively for fracking, prompting further criticism from environmental activists.
Labour has claimed that after being appointed last year the adviser chaired a meeting at which tobacco industry executives discussed how to block plans to force cigarettes to be sold in plain packets.
The Tory chairman Grant Shapps has dismissed the allegations of misconduct. “Lynton Crosby advises the Conservative Party on political strategy; he doesn’t advise on policy,” he said. “This is looking like a smear campaign.”
A No 10 spokesman has also said that Mr Crosby had no involvement in the decision, adding that Mr Cameron had never been lobbied by the Australian on cigarette packaging.