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Plain packaging – a dirty war alright!

March 13th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized by

Some of you might have read the Independent article today “The PM, his pro-smoking aide, and a dirty war over cigarette packaging“. In the article it says (amongst other things…)

“…The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health has asked Vince Cable, the Trade and Industry Minister, for reassurances that Mr Littlewood will not be advising on tobacco-related matters because of his “clear conflict of interest”.

“….Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking organisation ASH, said: “Mark Littlewood is not independent, he has nailed his colours to the mast by supporting the tobacco industry-funded campaign against plain packs, just as he did its campaign to bring smoking back to our pubs.”

Nailed his colours to the mast ? Too right he has – and years ago. Mark Littlewood (founder of, and former blogger here at LV) has been a passionate smoker, and blogger on the issue for years – and not just on tobacco. He has stood up to governments on tobacco and alcohol and drugs and gambling and a number of other lifestyle issues time and again here on this very blog, on the media. You name it Littlewood has been there.

…And long before he started this blog, when he was the spin doctor for the Lib Dems  he was positively evangelical about people’s freedoms, civil (co-founder of no2id) and  personal.

And who did he report to when working at the Lib Dems ? A certain Lord Rennard. The same Lord Rennard who just happens to be the vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health – (which is also chaired by Stephen Williams MP – also a Lib Dem) – the group that happened to make the complaint about Mark Littlewood to erm… fellow Lib Dem Vince Cable. Priceless! What is that about? Memory loss?

There can be nobody on the APPG – not Lord Rennard the vice chair or Stephen Williams the chair, nor anyone at ASH or indeed Vince Cable that doesn’t know Mark’s stance on tobacco – nor that he has held this stance for decades.

Surprised the Independent didn’t seem to know any of that  – or perhaps just chose not to mention any of that in their article. No – Their stance is to allude to what monies Mark Littlewood’s current organisation might receive from tobacco. As if this would make any difference to Mark Littlewood. It would be laughable were it not all so darned serious.

Personally I find it utterly hypocritical that the entire anti-tobacco health industry feels free to spout their “personal heart-felt beliefs” on smoking to Andrew Lansley and the Department of Health without any qualms. Indeed self-confessed tobacco-haters are commissioned and paid for by the Department of Health  to produce “independent” government policy papers on smoking. Yet these people – or their mouthpieces – go charging off to the Trade and Industry Minister as soon as someone, whose personal beliefs are at odds with theirs, gets anywhere so much as a foot into the doors of power. And who was it I wonder that gave this story to the Independent?

What ever the “Independent” might imply or the APPG disingenuously assert, this attack has nothing to do with tobacco funding any organisation.  It is indeed, as the “Independent” headline says, a dirty war. Because this is an attempt to use the power and privilege of parliamentary position to blacken a man’s name; to cow Mark Littlewood personally into shutting up, or attempt to force his employers into gagging him. I sincerely hope that neither will occur.

As for the APPG on Smoking and Health – a group that receives funding, “admin support” and “briefing papers” from the anti-smoking campaign group ASH – well it is about time this parliamentary loophole to power and influence was plugged once and for all.

Angela Harbutt is a proud campaigner for the Forest run campaign Hands Off Our Packs , opposing the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco.

Update : read also related pieces here – Velvet Gove Iron Fist , Alex Massie at the Spectator and Simon Clark-Taking Liberties

6 Responses to “Plain packaging – a dirty war alright!”

  1. externalities Says:

    This is without doubt the most important issue facing the UK.


  2. Stuart Wheatcroft Says:

    I think this is a post which might have been better written in a calmer tone. The underlying point – that the criticism quoted from ASH is utter rubbish – is entirely correct. The argument quoted amounts to saying that Mark Littlewood is biased because he has a history of disagreeing with them; he might equally well retort that they are biased, for the same reason.

    The specific concern appears to centre around the fact that he advises the government on regulatory matters. There is half a case there, but I think only half: government advisors are not barred from having views – indeed, the opposite is true.

    There is a legitimate question about the independence of the research described in the article, but not one which is particularly specific to this case: as Mark Littlewood has himself pointed out in the past, organisations which like the sort of research an individual or team produces are likely to fund future research, whereas those who do not are unlikely to do so. Accordingly, all research should be taken with a substantial pinch of salt, and considered in the proper context of other work.

    The article in the Independent reads to me as an attack article, which is disappointing.


  3. Ramsey Soudah Says:

    EXCELLENTLY PUT Angela, as always.. ‘pot’, ‘kettle’, ‘black’ once again rears it’s ugly head in the A.S.H corner..


  4. Dave Atherton Says:


  5. Junican Says:

    Stuart says:

    I think this is a post which might have been better written in a calmer tone.

    If only that were possible, Stuart!

    For example, suppose that I say to you, Stuart, “Don’t take this the wrong way, Stuart. I don’t mean anything personal, honestly – I’m just trying to illustrate a general point. I’m sure that you understand what I mean. But, let’s face it, the reality is that: YOU ARE A DISGUSTING, FILTHY, STINKING SMOKER AND KILL AND MAIM BABIES AND YOU STINK AND STINK AND STINK AND YOU ROB THE NHS AND, ALL IN ALL, THE WORLD WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF YOU GOT CANCER AND DIED” But, nothing personal, you understand” All the above while wagging a finger in your face!!! Well, yes, ‘adopt a calmer attitude’……

    That is what ASH ET AL have been doing for years – “We are reasonable. It is not smokERS who kill babies, it is smokING”

    How have they got away with this nonsense for so long?

    There is an answer, and that is the Media. It cannot be other than so. Only the Media, especially the BBC, have the resources to twist and spin and promulgate. The messages from ASH ET AL could be demolished in an instant, if the Media decided to do so – easy-peasy. It is only because the Media (the Big Beasts) has ceased to abide by its ‘raison d’etre’ that the persecution has happened. The ‘raison d’etre’ of the press is to be ‘the fourth estate’ – the balance AGAINST propaganda; the balance AGAINST Holy Zealots; the balance AGAINST statistical mumbo-jumbo; the balance AGAINST persecution. The Media became part of the problem. How shameful!

    ASH ET AL pronounce. The Cabinet complies. MPs comply. The ‘Fourth Estate’ complies. Welcome to THE TOTALITARIAN STATE.


  6. Chris Oakley Says:

    Stuart has done a great job of calmly rationalizing the issue but sadly Junican is right. It is difficult to have an intellectual debate with zealots. I therefore believe that we need more of the passion that Angela puts into her writing rather than less. The attack piece in the Independent should inflame passion in anyone who believes in honesty, liberty and freedom of speech.

    For far too long, the public health industry has gotten away with unfairly claiming that all who oppose it do so solely for financial reward from “big” tobacco, food, alcohol etc. Coming from people who make their living as charity spin doctors or professional activists I find this tactic sickeningly hypocritical.

    In a few short decades, public health activism has achieved very little, undermined thousands of years of rational progress, damaged science, created social divisions and contributed to the widening gap between politicians and those they allegedly represent.

    As a former Liberal Democrat voter I could never support Stephen Williams and I currently choose not to support the party he represents. I am only one voter but I suspect that I am not entirely alone because the mendacity and unpleasantness of the public health crusaders is only one symptom of a wider malaise that afflicts our society. That is why this issue really is important.


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