Institute of Economic Affairs

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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a leading right wing UK think tank, set up in 1955, which has a history of close collaboration with the tobacco industry, detailed on the pages below:

Mark Littlewood was appointed as Director General in October 2009.[1]

Receives Funding from Tobacco Industry

In early June 2013, the Observer revealed that both the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute received tens of thousands of pounds in funding from cigarette firms.[2]


Received £20,000 from BAT in 2012

In a response to questions asked by ASH at the 2013 AGM, Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT confirmed that in 2011 it gave the IEA £10,000, plus £1,000 for hosting an event. In 2012, it donated a further £20,000 to the Institute.[3]

In response to further questions, the Group Head of Corporate Affairs revealed that BAT and the Institute were currently negotiating increased funding:

"British American Tobacco is supporting the Institute of Economic Affairs through payment of the annual membership fee. We are planning to increase our contribution in 2013 and 2014, although the amount has not been formally agreed."[4]

Received £40,000 from BAT in 2013

At the company's AGM in 2014, BAT was once again asked by ASH how much the tobacco company was funding the IEA. In response, BAT conceded that it had doubled the amount from £20,000 in 2012 to £40,000 in 2013. The company added that, as of early June that year, "no funds have yet been released for 2014". [5]

2014 Levels "Broadly Similar to 2013"

In a letter to the Chief Executive of ASH UK, Simon Cleverly, Group Head of Corporate Affairs, confirmed in writing that BAT continued to fund the IEA, stating “in 2014 we continued to contribute on a broadly similar basis to 2013”.[6]

2015 "Broadly Similar Basis to 2014"

In March 2016, Simon Cleverly from BAT wrote another letter to ASH: "I can confirm that in 2015 BAT continued to contribute to the Institute for [sic] Economic Affairs (IEA) on a broadly similar basis to 2014 (ie circa £40,000). [7]

2016 "Broadly Similar to 2015" and "Likely be the Same in 2017"

In May 2017, Simon Cleverly, Group Head of Corporate Affairs at BAT, responded to the Chief Executive of ASH UK, confirming in writing that BAT continued to fund the IEA, stating “I can confirm that, in 2016, BAT UK continued to contribute to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on a broadly similar basis to 2015 and that this will likely be the same in 2017”.[8]


Imperial Has Funded IEA for “Well Over A Decade”

In 2014, Dr Steve Stotesbury, Head of Regulatory Science at Imperial Tobacco admitted that “We have been supporters of the IEA for many years, stretching back well over a decade”. [9]

Philip Morris International

"We are a member"

In 2013, a spokesman for Philip Morris International told the Observer: "We confirm that we are a member of the Institute of Economic Affairs, but cannot provide you with any further details."[2]

Japan Tobacco International

"We work with the IEA"

In 2013, when asked whether they funded the IEA, JTI said: "We work with the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute as their economic and behavioural expertise help us better understand which tobacco regulation measures will work and which will not." [2]

Companies Defend Funding

Both JTI, which makes Camel, and Imperial, whose brands include Embassy, defended their donations to the think tanks. "We believe the contributions of organisations like the ASI and the IEA are very valuable in an open and free society. We respect their work and share their views on many issues," a spokesman for Imperial told the Observer.

The Observer noted:

"Their admissions have dismayed health groups, which question the degree to which both organisations have influenced government thinking, especially on plain packaging for cigarettes. It also highlights the entrenched links between "big tobacco" and the libertarian strand of British politics that has been strengthened by the recent rise of Ukip, a party that has positioned itself firmly on the side of smokers."[2]

The IEA did not respond to requests for comment from the Observer; the Institute has never confirmed whether it receives tobacco money. In May 2012, when the IEA was asked to clarify whether it was receiving money from the tobacco industry, the think tank declined to do so. Its spokesperson Ruth Porter said: "We receive no public money and are independently funded. We do not disclose information about who our donors are."[10]

Deborah Arnott of ASH thinks it is time for a change: "If the IEA really believes its policies are completely independent from its funding, it should have the courage of its convictions and be honest about where it gets its money from," she told the paper.[2]

Both think tanks have a history of criticising regulation of smoking such as plain packaging and the smoking ban in pubs, arguing that they represent an attack on civil liberties, as is detailed on this page and that of the ASI.

Furthermore, the fact that the two think tanks take money from the industry raises questions about whether World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline governing transparency on tobacco funding are being breached.

Against Plain Packaging

Hands Off Our Packs Campaign

The IEA's director Littlewood is a prominent supporter of Forest's Hands Off Our Packs campaign against plain packaging, and spoke at its launch in January 2012. [11] [12] Littlewood also is one of the founders of Progressive Vision, a libertarian lobby group, and its offshoot Liberal Vision, both very active on the pro-smoking front. Angela Harbutt, executive director of Liberal Vision, is the coordinator of the Hands Off Our Packs campaign. In fact, there are close connections between the organisations and the people involved, which are outlined here and on related TobaccoTactics pages. Harbutt and Littlewood for instance were partners in 2010[13], while Progressive Vision has been registered at his home address since 2007.[14]

Plain Packs Book

On the eve of the British Government's consultation on Plain Packaging on No Smoking Day 2012, Patrick Basham and John Luik, who have a history of pro-tobacco work, published a book on the issue of Plain Packaging, entitled "The Plain Truth". The book was launched at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The press release for the book noted: "Plain packaging does not work. Furthermore, it cannot work, argue Patrick Basham and John Luik in this timely, provocative book that confronts the public health establishment’s proposal to mandate the plain packaging of tobacco products."[15]

Plain Packs "Will Do Nothing to Improve Health"

In April 2012, when the Government announced its consultation on plain packaging, the IEA's response was predictable and similar to arguments put forward by the tobacco industry. Commenting on the announcement, Mark Littlewood, said: "This consultation is a patronising and unnecessary distraction which will do nothing to improve the public's health ... It is inconceivable that any adult in the country can be unaware that there are health risks associated with smoking. Branding and imagery on cigarette packets do not lead anyone to believe otherwise."

Littlewood added: "The keenest enthusiasts for plain packaging in Britain will be organised crime networks who already control a substantial proportion of tobacco sales and whose lives will be made considerably easier should this policy be pursued." [16]

Lifestyle Economics

In January 2013, the IEA established what it called a “Lifestyle Economics” unit. “In recent years the IEA has undertaken extensive research in the area of lifestyle products”, said the IEA. “This, combined with an increasing focus by the government and general public on the issues surrounding alcohol, tobacco, gambling, sugar, fat and soft drinks, has made the formation of the unit timely and necessary”. [17] The unit is run by Chris Snowdon.

Submission to Chantler Review Quotes "Flawed" Evidence

A year later, in January 2014, the IEA submitted evidence to the UK Government’s Independent Review into Plain Packaging undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler. The IEA’s submission, which was written by Christopher Snowdon, re-iterated common tobacco industry arguments against plain packaging, such as it increasing the percentage of illicit cigarettes in Australia.

The IEA quoted research by KPMG commissioned by the tobacco industry, which has been dismissed as “flawed” by the Australian Government. [18]

Evidence "Not on the Side" of Plain Packaging

On 26 June 2014, the UK Government announced its second public consultation on the introduction of plain (standardised) packaging for tobacco products alongside a published set of draft regulations. In a follow-up statement released later that same day, Director General of the IEA Mark Littlewood claimed that the evidence is “not on the side of plain packaging”, stating:

“With tobacco sales rising after plain packaging was introduced in Australia, the public health case for this policy looks increasingly weak. The British government said that it was "minded" to introduce plain packaging on the basis of a deliriously optimistic review of the theoretical evidence, but it can only seriously consider proceeding if it undertakes serious reviews of the impact on intellectual property, counterfeiting, smuggling, tax evasion and trade disputes. These are the pressing issues that have so far been ignored.” [19]

Against Display Bans

This was not the first time that the IEA had published Basham's work.

In 2010, the IEA published a discussion paper by him entitled "Canada's ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons", in which Basham concluded: "the empirical evidence does not demonstrate that tobacco display bans have reduced smoking prevalence or consumption in the four countries where they have been instituted: Canada, Iceland, Ireland, and Thailand. In this sense, display bans appear to be - like so many other tobacco control policies - highly ineffective". [20]

The discussion paper was highly criticised by Cancer Research UK. It argued that Basham's paper had a number of "general weaknesses", namely that:

  • It did not disclose Patrick Basham’s long-standing links with the tobacco industry.
  • Neither the paper, nor the evidence it relied on, was published in peer-reviewed journals.
  • It had "internal inconsistencies in which factors are considered or discounted in different countries".
  • The report contained "selective evidence" that "undermined claims about the effects of a display ban", such as "the arguments in favour of removing displays of tobacco in shops are incompletely covered as they ignore the key point that displays are recognised by WHO (and marketers) as a form of advertising". [21]

Against Further Restrictions

Littlewood has also spoken out against the proposed Display Ban before. In March 2011, Littlewood was one of a number of signatories of a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Telegraph attacking the Government's position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.

Attacking ASH and its Funding

Like many pro-tobacco groups, the IEA criticises the public funding of groups like ASH. Writing in October 2010, Littlewood quoted a report published by the tobacco industry funded group Forest that had detailed the state funding given to anti-tobacco campaigning groups by public bodies. Although Littlewood had to concede that "The numbers are, unsurprisingly, tiny in terms of the overall budget deficit – eliminating ASH’s annual grant of £142,000 from the Department of Health is very small beer when tackling a deficit of £150bn".[22]


The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Adam Smith Institute took part in a series of debates about civil liberties, risk and freedom, organised by Forest and the Free Society in June 2010 and June 2011.[23]

Paragon Initiative to “Shift Terms of Debate"

In October 2015, the IEA launched a major new five-year project, called the Paragon Initiative, which it claimed would be the largest body of research ever undertaken by the think tank. [24]

Speaking at the launch, Mark Littlewood said:

"We want to totally re-frame the debate about the proper role of the state and civil society in our country … Our true mission is to change the climate of opinion. We are less interested in shifting today’s policy decisions by an inch, we want to shift terms of debate by many yards or even miles and that is the purpose of the Paragon Initiative”.

Littlewood outlined how there planned to be forty or so pieces of research “covering pretty much every area of Government activity.” [25]


In 2007 the IEA republished a booklet it had originally published at the end of the 1990s by Professor Hugh High on advertising and smoking. [26] See also Hugh High.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Other entries relevant to the IEA:


  1. IEA blog, Mark Littlewood appointed Director General of the IEA, 26 October 2009, accessed June 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Jamie Doward, Health groups dismayed by news 'big tobacco' funded rightwing thinktanks, The Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs received money from cigarette firms, it has been revealed, the Observer, 1 June 2013, accessed June 2013
  3. Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 20 May 2013
  4. Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Second Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 18 June 2013
  5. Simon Millson, Group Head of Corporate Affairs for BAT, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 4 June 2014
  6. Simon Cleverly, Letter to Deborah Arnott Chief Executive of ASH UK, 29 May 2015
  7. Simon Cleverly, Letter to Deborah Arnott, ASH, 21 March 2016
  8. Simon Cleverly, Letter to Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH UK, 12 May 2017
  9. Steven Stotesbury, Head of Regulatory Science, Imperial Tobacco, Email to University of Bath, 25 March 2014
  10. Ruth Porter, Email to Tobacco Control Research Group, University of Bath, 11 May 2012
  11. Hands Off Our Packs, Supporters, accessed February 2012
  12. Simon Clark, Hands Off Our Packs Launch Party, Taking Liberties blog, 28 February 2012
  13. Economic Research Council, 13th July: Mark Littlewood, Director General of the IEA, undated, accessed June 2012
  14. Companies House, Company appointments for Progressive Vision Limited, Reg. nr. 06401466, accessed June 2012
  15. Institute of Economic Affairs, The Plain Truth, accessed February 2012
  16. PRNewsire, "Plain Packaging of Tobacco: the State Should not Regulate Which Colours we are Allowed to Look at", London, 13 April 2012
  17. IEA, Lifestyle Economics, undated
  18. Christopher Snowdon, Consultation Submission – Response from the Institute of Economic Affairs to the Independent review into the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco, January 2014
  19. Institute of Economic Affairs, Evidence not on the side of plain packaging, 26 June 2014, accessed July 2014
  20. Patrick Basham, Canada's ruinous tobacco display ban:economic and public health lessons, IEA Discussion Paper, July 2010
  21. Cancer Research UK, "A response by Cancer Research UK to Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons by Patrick Basham Institute of Economic Affairs Discussion Paper 29", Undated, accessed March 2012
  22. Mark Littlewood, Coalition should stop funding anti-smoking groups, 28 October 2010
  23. The Free Society, Voices of Freedom, undated, accessed January 2012
  24. IEA, How to Achieve Effective Government, undated, accessed May 2016
  25. IEA, Launch of the Paragon Initiative 2015, accessed May 2016
  26. IEA, Does Advertising Increase Smoking?, Website, accessed March 2012