Funding for the Anti-Smoking Movement

An interview with Chris Snowdon, author of Velvet Glove Iron Fist,


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ECD: One of the things I am interested in is that the anti-smoking lobby seem to be a lot more effective at getting their voice across than people like Forces.

Chris: Well there's not really any contest in terms of resources and access to the media and so on. The anti-smoking movement isn't a voluntary group of people, you know, with placards. It hasn't been for decades. It's an international multi-billion pound operation. So inevitably that side of the argument is going to come through far more powerfully than anybody else.

ECD: So who do you see the funding as coming from?

Chris: Oh, it comes primarily from government. Also some money from the pharmaceutical industry. The exact amount of money we are talking about is hard to quantify. I've heard figures around the 800 million dollar a year mark but it could well be more than that, in fact it would be more than that. You've got to factor in the World Health Organisation, the UN, all the individual national governments. Most of them have part of their health spending dedicated towards tobacco programmes, so there's a lot of people involved in this.

ECD: So basically it is our money funding it, as taxpayers.

Chris: Yeah, yeah primarily. There's very little in the way of voluntary donations. I mean it's negligible.

ECD: Is this genuinely prompted by health concerns?

Chris: I think so. I think in terms of what the politicians think they are paying for, it's primarily about health. The money started coming in - it trickled in in the 60's and 70's and became a river in the 80's and 90's.

And there's more and more of it around because basically what you have is the idea of less people smoking, which in politics is almost universally seen as a good thing, for obvious reasons.

The problem is, it's very easy to set these targets saying you want to have 20%, 15%, 10% of the population smoking, much easier to say that than it is to actually get it done. So the politicians make these promises, they have these kind of Utopian ideas, they have these targets in mind and then it is a question of what do you do about it.

Well, the people who are coming up with the solutions is the international tobacco control lobby, I mean these people have conferences all over the world, they're all pretty much singing from the same hymn sheet, they've all got the same policies in mind, and one country will try them out first and then you'll see them gradually go round all the rest of the countries.

But the politicians rely on the people, professionally involved in tobacco control, many of whom were initially just activists and in some cases fanatics back in the 70's and are now working full time in tobacco control, they are the ones coming up with the policies, the politicians don't really understand what needs to be done or the way things work, they will just give them pretty much free reign and blank cheque and say go on, do what you think is best.

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