ASH Daily News for 2 August 2019


  • Lynton Crosby’s firm CTF secretly ran Facebook propaganda network
  • UK not providing ‘best practice’ level smoking cessation support, says WHO report


  • Indonesia seeks to curb vaping, but not cigarettes

Link of the week

  • Deborah Arnott and Dr. Fred Hirsch discuss smoking and lung cancer



Lynton Crosby’s firm CTF secretly ran Facebook propaganda network

The lobbying firm CTF Partners, which has previously worked with tobacco companies, run by Boris Johnson’s close ally Sir Lynton Crosby has secretly built a network of unbranded “news” pages on Facebook for dozens of clients ranging from the Saudi government to coal power companies, a Guardian investigation has found.

Former employees of the campaign consultancy have painted a picture of a business that appears to have professionalised online disinformation, taken on a series of controversial clients and faced incidents of misogynistic bullying in its headquarters. They said that such was the culture of secrecy within the firm that staff working on online disinformation campaigns, which selectively promoted their clients’ viewpoints on anonymised Facebook pages that followed a common formula.

One former employee described how Crosby’s business created Facebook pages on specific topics to spread disinformation to interested members of the public in the UK and abroad. “It would all be anonymised and made to look as though they are a news aggregator with a specialist angle,” the employee said. “For instance, if we were working to promote the use of coal, it would be an anti-environmental page. You might make a page designed to attract pro-Trump types and get them revved up about green subsidies.” Staff members said that they created websites and Facebook pages which appeared to be independent online news sources with names such as Why Electricity Matters, Reporting Yemen and Londoners for Transport, but instead could be used to distribute highly selective information which reached tens of millions of readers.

Johnson has a longstanding personal relationship with Crosby, who has played a key role in every Conservative election campaign since 2005 while Mark Fullbrook, also a CTF Partner founder, ran Johnson’s successful campaign for the Conservative Leadership. Last weekend the Sunday Times quoted a “source close to Crosby” claiming that Johnson had talked to him “frequently” since being elected.

CTF Partners declined to comment on their methods, but accused Guardian journalists of relying “on false or distorted facts and improperly leaked documents as part of a political agenda”.

Source: The Guardian, 1 August 2019

See also
The Guardian: Boris Johnson campaign chief’s firm lobbied councils for tobacco firm
Politico: Why is Johnson’s campaign manager’s firm bragging about links to British politicians?

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UK not providing ‘best practice’ level smoking cessation support, says WHO report

According to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK is not among 23 countries providing smoking cessation services at the “best practice” level.

The report, published in July 2019, on the “global tobacco epidemic” analysed national efforts to implement the most effective measures from the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that are proven to reduce demand for tobacco. The measures include the ‘MPOWER’ interventions, introduced in 2007 as a tool to help countries implement WHO FCTC demand reduction measures. MPOWER stands for:
• monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies;
• protecting people from tobacco smoke;
• offering help to quit;
• warning people about the dangers of tobacco;
• enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS);
• and raising taxes on tobacco.
The UK, the report notes, is 1 of 30 countries that are one step away from completely banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship; to achieve this, the country must ban industrial sponsorship, the report notes. Only two countries, Brazil and Turkey, have formally adopted all MPOWER measures at the highest level.

Source: Pharmaceutical Journal, 29 July 2019

See also
WHO: Report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019

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Indonesia seeks to curb vaping, but not cigarettes

Around 75 million of Indonesia’s 189 million adults smoke, according to the World Bank, a higher number than in any other country bar China and India. Smoking rates among men (76%) are the second-highest in the world after Timor-Leste, which itself used to be part of Indonesia. This rate, unlike in most Asian countries, is on the rise. Euromonitor, a research firm, estimates Indonesians spend $25 billion a year on cigarettes, including kretek, local favourites which contain cloves as well as tobacco.

Tobacco companies are a powerful lobbying force in Indonesia, Sampoerna (owned by Philip Morris), Gudang Garam, Djarum and Bentoel (owned by British American Tobacco) are viewed positively through the 6 million jobs they provide and the tax contributions they make.

This goes some way in explaining the state’s reluctance to stub out smoking, even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) says smoking-related diseases claim around 225,000 lives across the archipelago each year. Indonesia is one of fewer than ten countries to refuse to sign the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). There are no penalties for selling tobacco to minors in Indoensia, cigarettes remain cheap and tobacco firms are free to advertise and sponsor many public events, providing free samples.

Despite the widely accepted benefits of switching to vaping, the government originally sought to ban e-cigarettes on health grounds. The trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, memorably told people using e-cigarettes to smoke conventional cigarettes instead to preserve jobs for tobacco-growers.

The government has since backed away from a complete ban, but it has imposed onerous restrictions. Distributors have to secure substantial government approvals, a big hurdle for the small firms that dominate the market. The government also placed a 57% excise tax on e-cigarettes and liquids, leaving e-cigarette-makers chasing a relatively small number of rich smokers. The total market for e-cigarettes remains very small in comparison with sales of cigarettes. Consequently, none of the big tobacco firms sell e-cigarettes in Indonesia.

Source: The Economist, 01 August 2019

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Link of the week

Deborah Arnott and Dr. Fred Hirsch discuss smoking and lung cancer

Hosted by Mount Sinai Health System, Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, and Dr. Fred Hirsch, from The Tisch Cancer Institute, discuss the challenges smoking still presents for lung cancer at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

The discussion focuses on the need for greater efforts to embed smoking cessation in treatment and prevention pathways, especially from doctors and healthcare professionals and the benefits such an approach could have.

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