Angela Harbutt is the campaigns manager for the industry-funded smokers' group Forest.
She managed the Hands Off Our Packs campaign created in response to plain packaging proposals in the UK, and the No Thank EU campaign in response to the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision. She is also the Executive Director of Liberal Vision, an offshoot of Progressive Vision, co-founded by Mark Littlewood. The Liberal Vision FAQ describes the relationship with Progressive Vision as follows: "In strict legal terms, we are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the classical liberal think tank, Progressive Vision, and describe ourselves as an 'affiliate'." In fact, there are close connections between the organisations and the people involved, which are outlined here and on related TobaccoTactics pages. For instance, Harbutt and Littlewood were partners in 2010, while Progressive Vision has been registered at his home address since 2007.
Harbutt is a former TV marketing consultant. She worked for Sir Menzies Campbell when he was leader of the Liberal Democrat party and is a former Head of Communications for the campaign against identity cards in the UK, NO2ID.
Hands off our packs
In a press release to announce her employment by the Hands off our packs campaign, Harbutt used three of the well-used Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging. She said: “Plain packaging is not just an attack on the intellectual property rights of legitimate companies, it’s a direct assault on individual freedom and a smack in the face for millions of law-abiding consumers who don’t appreciate being denormalised and treated like second class citizens... It is likely to be counter-productive if the aim is to reduce smoking rates. I didn’t start smoking because I was attracted to the packaging and I don’t know anyone who did. If government insists on telling teenagers how to behave they are far more likely to rebel.”
The Letter to the Daily Telegraph
In March 2011, she was one of 11 signatories of a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Telegraph attacking the Government's position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.
No Thank EU
Forest’s No Thank EU campaign was launched on 29 July 2013 in response to the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision. The Directive proposes a ban on the use of menthol in tobacco products, a standard size for all cigarette packs (no packs of 10, ‘perfume packs’, or 12.5g tobacco pouches), health warnings which cover 75% of the packet, as well as the continuation of the EU ban on snus and the introduction of regulation for e-cigarettes. On the day of the campaign launch, Harbutt had a blog piece published in Politics Home, in which she called the TPD revision "unfair". Referring a speech by Foreign Secretary William Hague in May 2013, she reiterated his view that people have too little say about how the EU affects their lives and that it is the job of individual member states and their elected representatives to decide on the health policy of each:
"The Brussels legislative juggernaut has well and truly landed on our shores, ignoring the limits of its own remit and riding roughshod over everything in its path. It has no regard for UK Parliamentary processes nor does it care about the desires of UK citizens."
Harbutt argued that the majority of the 85,000 respondents to the 2010 TPD consultation were opposed to the TPD revision and then went on to recycle well-used tobacco industry arguments against regulation, including:
- Nanny State: “EU threatens to become ‘Super Nanny’ to an entire continent.”
- It is unlawful: “…much of what it [the TPD] wants to do is breaking EU rules as well as national and international laws.”
- Taxpayers will pay: “Taxpayers will pick up the bill when the legislation is inevitably challenged in the courts.”
Anti-Tobacco Control Activities
A week after chairing the debate, Harbutt attacked the anti-smoking charity ASH on the Liberal Vision website, and argued that its public funding should end:
- "Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a campaigning health charity set up in 1971 by the Royal College of Physicians to work towards eliminating the harm caused by tobacco. This could have been a force for good - after all there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wishing to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. It rather depends how you go about it – and that is so often determined by who is footing the bills.
- ASH receives huge amounts of money from the taxpayer and sadly, like so many publicly funded bodies with too much money and too little scrutiny it has NOT gone about its task well. ASH has now become a fat, over-staffed, political, and single-minded organisation hell bent on eradicating smoking from the face of the earth, by whatever means necessary."
In June 2011, she chaired a debate entitled "Risk and the pursuit of happiness", organised by The Free Society and the Democracy Institute, at the Institute of Economic Affairs (which has a history of being funded by the tobacco industry) in London. The speakers were Dr Patrick Basham (Democracy Institute), Mark Littlewood and gambling addict Jake Brindell. She was also listed as a speaker at the Global Tobacco Networking Forum, a tobacco industry event, in Antwerp in June 2012.
- Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging
- Countering Industry Arguments against Plain Packaging
- Hands Off Our Packs
- Liberal Vision
- Mark Littlewood
- Institute of Economic Affairs
- EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision
- Plain Packaging in the UK
- Hands Off Our Packs, Forest announces Hands Off Our Packs campaign team, 6 February 2012, accessed 8 February 2012
- S.Clark, The EU road to prohibition, Taking Liberties Blog, 29 July 2013, accessed October 2013
- Liberal Vision, FAQ, organisation website, no date, accessed June 2012
- Economic Research Council, 13th July: Mark Littlewood, Director General of the IEA, undated, accessed June 2012
- Companies House, Company appointments for Progressive Vision Limited, Reg. nr. 06401466, accessed June 2012
- TSMS completes restructuring, Marketing Week', 7 July 1995, accessed 8 February 2012
- NO2ID Newsletter, 2005
- A. Harbutt, No Thank EU, PoliticsHome.com, 29 July 2013, accessed October 2013
- Angela Harbutt, ASH abuse of public money must end, Liberal Vision Website, 22 June, 2011
- The Free Society, Voices of freedom, undated, accessed 11 June 2011
- GTNF ANTWERP 2012: Look who is talking and what they are talking about,GTNF 2012 website