TPD: Campaigning Websites
The tobacco industry and its supporters have set up several campaigning websites to mobilise EU citizens support to oppose the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision, known as the TPD. These websites promote anti-regulation messages, encouraging seemingly grass-root opposition to the TPD.
Forest: No Thank EU
No Thank EU is a campaign being run by the tobacco industry front group Forest against the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision. Forest is funded by British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International (JTI).The website was registered in June 2013 and the campaign was officially launched on 29 July 2013. On the campaign website Forest borrows well-worn tobacco industry arguments against plain packaging to oppose the TPD, which includes proposals to ban menthol cigarettes and smaller pack sizes (e.g. cigarettes sold in 10s), and increase health warning size to cover 75% of the packet. The TPD also includes a provision that allows member states to implement plain packaging if they see fit.
No Thank EU argues that this would increase crime, negatively impact businesses and is a “slipperly slope” to other regulations on products that impact health. Arguments are heavily based around the libertarian rhetoric of choice and freedom. The language used by the campaign is sceptical of the EU, talking about “unelected bureaucrats” imposing an “extreme agenda”:
- “This is yet another example of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels imposing their extreme regulatory agenda on UK consumers.
- Tobacco is a legitimate consumer product yet the EU wants to prohibit or severely restrict the choices available to adults.
- Have we learnt nothing from history? Criminal gangs will make a fortune manufacturing and selling prohibited products.
- Legitimate businesses will suffer as a direct result of regulations that will deny consumers choice and drive them to the black market.
- If Brussels gets away with this the EU will move on to other products such as alcohol, sugary drinks and convenience food.” 
The website asks people to email their MP or MEP, using a standardised letter format. The author of the letter, which is downloadable on the site, is Will Mayor. Forest has paid for No Thank EU adverts to appear in political magazines such as the Spectator , the New Statesman, The Week and House magazine. The latter is circulated to all MPs, Peers and MEPs.
A fortnight before the European Parliament's crucial vote on the revision of the TPD on 8 October 2013, JTI, placed adverts against the TPD revision in at least one retail trade magazine; the Retail Express. The advert encouraged retailers to oppose the revision by signing the petition, writing to the Prime Minister and mobilising action from their customers (Image 2).
The Know more campaign was created by Philip Morris, and specifically targets British smokers and retailers. The website was registered in July 2012. On the bottom of the main page it says “Know-more is sponsored by Philip Morris Ltd” (see image 3).
The part of the website that specifically targets retailers, uses empathetic language designed to resonate with retailers in the difficult current economic climate, “ As a small business owner, you know how difficult it is to operate your business, earn a living and create jobs.” In accordance with the No Thank EU campaign, ‘Know more’ also uses tobacco industry arguments on why the proposed provisions in the TPD will make it “even more difficult” for retailers to survive:
- Countries bordering the EU don’t have bans on small cigarette pack or menthols. Having these bans in the UK could lead to an increase in the UK’s cigarette black market
- “Britain’s Retailers Deserve Better” – costly government regulations will hurt Britain’s small business owners and the UK economy
- Point of sale display ban will cost retailers when “your business can least afford it”.
- Plain packaging, which is unproven, hurts already struggling businesses, by increasing customer transaction and restocking time, will drive customers away to the black market, increase security risks, and negatively affect the retailer’s margin
- The proposed regulations make counterfeiting easier and cheaper to the detriment of legitimate retailers. “More black market cigarettes mean fewer customers and lower profits for retailers like you”
For the public health counter arguments to these industry arguments please visit Countering Industry Arguments against Plain Packaging.
Stop the Ban
Leaked Philip Morris documents revealed that these websites are part of an elaborate multimillion Euro campaign by the tobacco giant to undermine the TPD. Read more here: PMI’s Lobbying Campaign to Undermine the TPD.
- Forest was also responsible for the Hands Off Our Packs campaign against plain packaging in the UK.
- EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision
- Third Party Techniques
- TPD: Revolving Door Cases
- Forest disclaimer, Forest website, undated, accessed September 2013
- Who is, NothankEU, accessed September 2013
- NoThankEU, 5 Reasons to Say No, accessed September 2013
- S. Clark, Hey EU! Stop intruding – Forest launches ad campaign in political weeklies, Taking Liberties Blog, 29 August 2013, accessed October 2013
- JTI, '45% of tobacco products you sell under threat.',Retail Express, p7, 24 September - 7 October 2013
- who is, Know-more, accessed September 2013
- Philip Morris, Know-more.co.uk for retailers, 2013, accessed in September 2013
- who is, OurChoice, accessed September 2013
- Philip Morris GmbH, Was-noch.eu ueber uns, undated, accessed September 2013
- Philip Morris International Management SA, stoptheban, 2013, accessed October 2013