EPICENTER

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EPICENTER, or the European Policy Information Center, was launched in 2014.

It is a collective of European think tanks, which provides a "free-market perspective" in European policy debates on topics including public health.[1]

Epicenter and its members are all listed as global partners of the Atlas Network.[2]

Background

Epicenter launched in October 2014 with 6 members:[3]

  • Civismo, Spain
  • Institut Economique Molinari (IEM), Belgium
  • Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in the UK (which received tobacco company funding, see section below)
  • Instituto Bruno Leoni (IBL), Italy
  • Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LMFI) (which received funding from Philip Morris International in 2017 to undertake "research and awareness activities, exploring the scope and drivers of illegal trade in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland.[4]) For more information, go to PMI IMPACT
  • Timbro, Sweden

In 2017 two further organisations joined:

  • Centre for Political Studies (CEPOS), Denmark
  • Civil Development Forum (FOR Foundation), Poland.

In July 2018, a ninth member joined EPICENTER:[5]

  • Centre for Liberal Studies (KEFiM), Greece

The President of KEFiM, Alexandros Skouras, previously worked for Atlas Network as Director of International Relations.[6] Tom G. Palmer, a member of the KEFiM advisory board, is Executive Vice President for International Programs at Atlas Network, and a Senior Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.[7]

Koskos Leonidas, a Director of KEFiM, and former President of the Confederation of Greek Food Industries, was previously a board member of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) which represents the interests of tobacco companies in Greece, including Philip Morris[8][9] and British American Tobacco.[10] CEV has argued against tobacco taxes, citing the risk of an increase in illicit trade and threats to jobs, both arguments commonly used by the tobacco industry.[11]

Saravakos Constantinos, a Research Analyst at KEFiM, contributed to the 2019 ‘Nanny State Index’ (see below).[12]

Tobacco Industry links

Philip Morris International (PMI) declared on the 2017 EU Transparency Register that it was a member of Epicentre [sic].[13]

Established and Funded by Institute of Economic Affairs

Image 1: EPICENTER Funding Disclosure 2016 Financial Year (source: Lobbyfacts.eu, accessed January 2018)

EPICENTER has been accused of being opaque about the origins of its funding.

Following repeated complaints by European watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory,[14][15] EPICENTER finally declared in January 2018 that it was entirely funded by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) (see Image 1).[16][17]

The IEA is a right wing think tank partly-funded by tobacco companies. For more information about its relationship with the tobacco industry, also see:

Key EPICENTER staff work, or have worked, for the IEA:

  • Christina Stewart-Lockhart: Founder and Chief Executive of Epicentre, was Director of Programmes at the IEA until 2019.[1][18]
  • Ralph Buckle, Acting Chief Executive of Epicenter in 2019 and Acting Director of Education, Outreach and Programmes at the IEA.[18]
  • Adam Bartha: Director of Epicenter, listed on the IEA staff page.[18]
  • Diego Zuluaga: Director of Epicenter and Head of Financial Services and Tech Policy at the IEA until 2018.[19][20]

Criticised EU Tobacco Control Measures

EPICENTER criticised the EU Tobacco Products Directive for "curbing innovation and variety" in e-cigarettes, and claimedthat the legislation would " prove counterproductive" and was " not backed by substantial evidence".[21]

Innov8 Europe

EPICENTER organised Innov8, a conference held in Brussels in 2016 and 2017, which aimed to: "focus on a number of different aspects of innovation and will comprise of important discussions on how European policy should move forward." [22][23]

The event held in November 2017 listed Christopher Snowdon as a speaker. [24]


The October 2016 event included a session on 'Innovation in harm reduction' and speakers included:[25]

The 'Nanny State Index'

In March 2016, EPICENTER launched the so-called 'Nanny State Index', designed by Christopher Snowdon, to show "the worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape".[26] The Nanny State Index appears to be a counter-initiative to the Tobacco Control Ranking Scale, an initiative first launched by the European Cancer Leagues in 2006, which monitors the implementation of tobacco control policies at country-level across Europe.[27]

On 10 May 2017, EPICENTER presented the updated Nanny State Index at an event in Brussels, titled “The Best and Worst Countries to Eat, Smoke and Vape in the EU”. Speakers included:[28]

One event session description titled “The Unintended Consequences of Regulation” referred to “over-regulation of e-cigarettes” which “has been criticised for pushing smokers back to combustible cigarettes”,[28]. It is not known whether any evidence for this claim was presented in the session.

The index is updated annually.[29][30]

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Link

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 About, EPICENTER website, undated, accessed July 2019
  2. Atlas Network, Global Directory: Europe and Central Asia, Atlas Network Website, undated, accessed July 2019
  3. Atlas Network, European Think Tanks Launch Epicenter to Address Key EU Issues, Atlas Network news article, 17 October 2014, accessed July 2019
  4. Philip Morris International, Selected projects: first funding round], 7 September 2017, accessed July 2019
  5. EPICENTER, Greek Think Tank Kefim Joins Epicenter, EPICENTER press release, 2 July 2018, accessed July 2019
  6. Atlas Network, Greece’s Newest Think Tank President, Atlas Network news article, 21 August 2017, accessed July 2019
  7. Tom G Palmer PhD, Atlas Network website, undated, accessed July 2019
  8. Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Papasratos Aves (Philip Morris International), SEV members news, various dates, accessed July 2019
  9. Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Mia epéndysi – stathmós gia tin Ellinikí Oikonomía kai gia éna méllon apallagméno apó ton kapnó tou tsigárou (An investment - a milestone for the Greek economy and a future free of cigarette smoke), SEV members news, March 2017, accessed July 2019
  10. Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), British American Tobacco reinforces its presence in Greece with its innovative tobacco heating product, SEV members news, 7 November 2018, accessed July 2019
  11. European Smoking Tobacco Association, Illegal tobacco trade costs the Greek state dearly, ESTA website, 19 February 2018, accessed July 2019
  12. Greece 2019, Nanny State Index, 2019, accessed July 2019
  13. Philip Morris International Inc., EU Transparency Register, updated 24 April 2017, accessed July 2019
  14. Corporate Europe Observatory, Thinking Allowed, Thinking allowed? How think tanks facilitate corporate lobbying, 5 July 2016, accessed January 2018
  15. Corporate Europe Observatory, EU lobby register still failing to live up to transparency promise, 16 November 2017, accessed July 2019
  16. European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER), Lobbyfacts.eu, undated, accessed July 2019
  17. EU Transparency Register, Registrant: European Policy Information Center, last updated 23 January 2018, accessed July 2019
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Institute of Economic Affairs, Staff, IEA website, undated, accessed July 2019
  19. Institute of Economic Affairs, Diego Zuluaga, undated, accessed January 2018
  20. Diego Zuluaga, Diego Zuluaga LinkedIn profile, accessed July 2019
  21. D. Zuluaga, Tobacco harm reduction and the new TPD. Wednesday Briefing No. 4, EPICENTER, May 2016, accessed July 2019
  22. About, Innov8 Europe website, undated, archived 10 October 2016, accessed July 2019
  23. About, Innov8 Europe website, undated, archived 30 June 2018, accessed July 2019
  24. Speakers, Innov8 Europe website, undated, archived 30 August 2018, accessed July 2019
  25. Innov8 Europe, Schedule, Innov8 Europe website, undated, accessed October 2016
  26. The Nanny State Index, EPICENTER, 2016, archived 31 March 2016, accessed July 2019
  27. L. Joossens, M. Raw, The Tobacco Control Scale: a new scale to measure country activity], Tobacco Control, 2006; 15(3): 247-253
  28. 28.0 28.1 2017: Speakers, The Nanny State Index Conference website undated, archived 30 January 2018, accessed July 2019
  29. Nanny State Index, website, undated, accessed July 2019
  30. Nanny State Index 2019, IEA Report, 2019, accessed July 2019