‘Tell the truth’ – ASH confronts the tobacco industry with its own words

Thursday 25 June 1998

ASH/ Press releases/


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Press releaseEmbargo 00:01 Thursday 25 June 1998 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health

“Tell the truth” – ASH confronts the tobaccoindustry with its own words

With a new report released today, ASH has challenged the tobacco industry to accept tenkey ‘facts and realities’ about its business, and to stop the denials and deceitthat have hindered progress in tackling the epidemic of smoking-related addiction, diseaseand death.

Significance for legal action. ASH releases the report, amajor survey of previously confidential tobacco industry documents and statements, at ameeting of lawyers and doctors held at the British Medical Association. The report groupsthe statements into subjects such as smoking and health, nicotine addiction, marketing tochildren, cigarette design, and passive smoking. The report gives a condensed guide to thedocumentary evidence already available.

“We expect this report will be of great value to lawyers and victims of tobacco-related disease contemplating legal action against the companies. It gives a brilliant insight into what was going on inside the companies, and shows that the industry’s public statements have been at sharp variance with its private knowledge and behaviour.” said Clive Bates, Director of ASH.

Time to tell the truth. ASH believes the report will havevaluable political ramifications. In March, the Government’s Scientific Committee onTobacco and Health recommended that the Government should require of the tobacco industry“… normal standards of disclosure of the nature and magnitude of hazards of smokingto their customers, comparable to that expected from other manufacturers of consumerproducts“. To this end, ASH has specified ten key ‘facts and realities’that the industry refuses to accept – these are crucial planks in the justification for astrong tobacco policy and major points of contention in litigation. Confronted by theevidence of its own documents, the industry must now tell the truth and accept thesepoints:

  1. Smoking is a cause of lung cancer and other fatal diseases
  2. Over 100,000 people die prematurely in the UK as a result of smoking
  3. The industry is really in the drug business and the drug is nicotine
  4. Nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug, in the same manner as heroin or cocaine
  5. That teenagers are inherently important to the tobacco market and have been targeted
  6. That advertising increases total tobacco consumption and hence causes harm
  7. That advertising is one of several important influences on youth smoking
  8. That low tar cigarettes offer false reassurance and no significant health benefit
  9. That passive smoking is a cause of respiratory disease in children and lung cancer and heart disease in adults
  10. That it has the normal duty of any manufacturer to make its products as safe as possible.

Political action needed. ASH is calling on Health SecretaryFrank Dobson to act on the recommendation of SCOTH and put these points to the tobaccocompanies operating in the UK before the Tobacco White Paper is released later this year.

“We cannot go on having a multi-billion pound rogue business denying publicly what they know privately. There needs to be a proper truth session before the White Paper comes out later this year, and Mr. Dobson should press the industry to accept these crucial points.” said Clive Bates, Director of ASH.

ASH has also called on politicians to join lawyers in the efforts to hold the industryto account. We believe the appropriate Select Committee should question the ChiefExecutives of the companies and that the Government should hold an inquiry into corporatemalpractice – in much the same way the Government intervened over the mis-selling ofpensions.

Approach of this report. In recent months ASH has helped tomake public a succession of revealing documents about the tobacco industry. The newmaterial contains several hundred document extracts that have not so far been seen inpublic. Rather than drawing on particularly revealing ‘headline grabbing’documents, we have tried to build up a broad picture. ASH believes the whole picture thatemerges is extraordinary and amounts to a much greater challenge to the industry thananything that has been attempted before.

Response of tobacco industry. ASH anticipates a hostile anddismissive response from the tobacco industry.

“They’ll probably claim this is old news, but the quotes run right up to this year. For everyone from Governments and lawyers to school kids and smokers, this information is very relevant indeed,” said Bates.

This report and the Internet. The report, <ahref=”.. papers=”” tobexpld.html”=””>Tobacco Explained: the truth about the tobacco industry…in its own words is the product of several months work by a researcher,Andrew Rowell. The material comprises seven long chronologies and a printed 70-pagecompendium of the best material. The whole package is designed for the Internet and willbe available at ASH’s web site: http://www.ash.org.uk The definitive version of thecompendium will be held on the web site and updated from time to time. The chronologiesare too long for paper publication and will only be available on the web site. ASH is alsoinvesting in new database technology to hold existing documents and new material as itbecomes available to the public – again this will be made available through the web site.

Documents exchanged by lawyers in the UK litigation involving 53 lung cancer victimssuing Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco are confidential and will not be available to ASH orthe general public unless and until they are exhibited in court – likely to be towards theend of 1999.



Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Pauline Doyle, Press Officer (020) 7739 5902 or 0171 249 2363 (hm)

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