Industry adopt tactics of ‘Dr Evil’ in battle against tougher regulation

This was in The Guardian earlier this month and lays out what the tobacco industry is doing to try and save it’s business model.

Britain’s leading cigarette manufacturers are attempting to open a new front in their fight against tougher regulation.  Tobacco companies are backing a new organisation that launches this week to push the message that drinkers and fast food fans will be the next targets of health campaigners if smokers’ freedoms are not respected.

Action on Consumer Choice (ACC) is closely modelled on the Centre for Consumer Freedom (CCF) in the US, a hugely powerful organisation funded by tobacco firms and fast food chains that was the brainchild of Richard Berman, one of Washington’s most successful – and notorious – lobbyists. Berman has argued against an initiative to lower the blood alcohol content limit for US drivers, claiming that stricter limits would punish those who drink responsibly. His various lobbying efforts have earned him the sobriquet “Dr Evil”.

“His principal strategy appears to be: destroy your opponent’s credibility before they destroy yours,” Simon Clark of Freedom of the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), the tobacco-funded body behind the ACC, notes on his blog announcing the soft launch of the ACC, crediting Berman as its inspiration. “Consumers who believe in choice and personal responsibility must have a voice,” Clark continues. “With a few tweaks for a UK audience, I can’t think of a better model than Rick Berman’s Centre for Consumer Freedom.”

Berman found himself in the New York Times last week after a speech he gave to the oil and gas industry was secretly recorded and leaked to the paper. According to the NYT, Berman told leading oil and gas executives that they must be “prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities”. He continued: “Think of this as an endless war. And you have to budget for it.”

Interestingly another article with a similar message was published in The Telegraph headlined: Watch out: the anti-smoking fanatics now want to regulate drinking.   The anti-smoking lobby has been offering advice to the House of Lords on how to regulate drinking. Draconian moves could follow.

This is  a snippet of what the article had to say:

The UK Centre For Tobacco and Alcohol Studies is demanding legislation to impose new restraints on marketing alcoholic drinks, an end to sponsorship of sport by drinks companies, and a blanket ban on representatives from the drinks industry attending meetings civil servants.

Meanwhile I remain puzzled that the UK Centre For Tobacco and Alcohol Studies continues to be treated with such respect. This video of Gerard Hastings, the academic who is one of their main protagonists, suggests that he is also something of an anti-capitalist campaigner as well as a public health expert. Yet he is listened to with entranced respect by Parliament and the Department of Health.

To repeat what Rick Berman said again “Think of this as an endless war. And you have to budget for it.”  This business model applies to the drinks industry as much as it does to the tobacco industry, particularly as drinks companies have interests in tobacco too, such as SABMiller discussed here. Their concern is not with public health but with profit and they will employ any tactic or professional advisor to ensure their message gets across and their profitability is maintained …… it’s not just a war but a dirty war.

To end on a more cheery note Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my American friends.  Hope you have a happy, sober relaxing holiday.  As Lori mentioned in the comments Veronica has written a great post today about what a sober alcoholic is thankful for and you can read it here 🙂

2 thoughts on “Industry adopt tactics of ‘Dr Evil’ in battle against tougher regulation

  1. A dirty war indeed. Grrr. “Thanks” for the Thanksgiving wishes 🙂 Veronica posted a lovely list of things a sober alcoholic is thankful for on her blog–made me tear up a bit. xx

    1. Hey Lori You are welcome & I hope you have a lovely day 🙂 I saw V’s list too and I think I’ll link it at the bottom of today’s blog post too so that others can read it.Thanks for prompting the idea! xx

Comments are closed.