Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association



  The TMA is an unincorporated trade association representing the tobacco companies participating in the UK market.

  The TMA's prime function is to represent the UK tobacco companies in negotiations and dealings with the UK Government and the authorities on issues of concern and interest to its members. The TMA is a non-profit making, non-commercial organisation; it represents the UK companies as a whole and does not promote particular brands or products. Neither does the TMA promote smoking in general, but it defends the freedom of adults to smoke if they so choose.

  Historically, the organisation representing the UK tobacco companies has had a number of different functions and, in addition to conducting dialogue with Government on behalf of the other UK companies, it has sponsored and conducted joint industry research to investigate questions relating to smoking and health. This memorandum includes a summary of that research programme. The research programme produced a large body of published material which has contributed to the scientific knowledge of smoking and health. This material has been available to independent researchers, the Government and related bodies such as the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health, as well as to TMA member companies. No-one who was involved in the joint industry research programme is employed by the TMA. The TMA is therefore not able to offer any first-hand knowledge of the matters discussed.

  There has been close co-operation between both the UK tobacco companies and the Government in a number of areas over many years. For example, the UK tobacco companies have worked with successive Governments to agree action on product modification, product labelling, sponsorship and advertising within the framework of a series of voluntary agreements. This voluntary framework has given the Government a system of regulatory control which is flexible, speedy and effective.

  Via the TMA, the UK tobacco companies have also launched and funded, often in conjunction with other interested parties, a number of initiatives relating to the prevention of under-age smoking, and the issue of smoking in public places and the workplace. These have included campaigns to educate children, retailers and the general public about the law relating to the prevention of sales of cigarettes to under 16s, the "CitizenCard" proof of age scheme and an initiative to identify and promote good practice in the accommodation of smoking and non-smoking customers in restaurants, public houses, bars, hotels etc.

  Recently, there has been a marked reduction in the close co-operation with Government which has existed for more than 40 years and a trend towards the exclusion of the UK tobacco companies from dialogue concerning Government action on tobacco and smoking issues. As the history of the UK tobacco companies' relationship with Government shows, for more than 40 years they have both collectively and individually been involved in a constructive dialogue with Government involving a sharing of information and knowledge. This dialogue has delivered significant results. It is very much hoped that this can continue in future years.


  1.  The TMA is an unincorporated association representing the tobacco companies participating in the UK market. The members of the TMA include Gallaher Limited, Imperial Tobacco Limited and British American Tobacco Company Limited, on whose behalf this memorandum is submitted.

  2.  The TMA's prime function is to represent the UK tobacco companies in negotiations and dealings with the UK Government. For instance, it has, over the years, conducted dialogue with representatives of the Govenment, the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer on additives, taxation and advertising, and other issues to be addressed by the Health Committee. The TMA also provides an information service to its members and, on request, to the public. The dialogue between the UK tobacco companies and government has continued for over 40 years. The TMA believes that it should continue in the future.

  3.  The TMA was formed in 1994. There had, however, been a number of other organisations representing the UK tobacco companies in earlier years. The Tobacco Manufacturers' Standing Committee (TMSC) was established in June 1956. The function of this organisation was very different to the function of the TMA today. It was formed by UK tobacco companies to sponsor research into smoking and health questions and to make information available to scientific researchers and the public. By 1963, its role had developed and in January 1963 the TMSC became known as the Tobacco Research Council (TRC) in recognition of its direct involvement in smoking and health research at its laboratories at Harrogate.

  4.  In August 1978, the TRC was reconstituted as the Research Committee on the Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC) to reflect the increasing emphasis on its own research programmes and expenditure. The TAC also absorbed the Tobacco Advisory Committee, a body initially established in the 1940s to advise the Government on the buying of leaf overseas but whose role had developed over the years to become more concerned with public relations issues and commercial matters of significance to its members.

  5.  In January 1994 there was a further name change to the TMA as it was felt that the name TAC did not clearly reflect the change of focus in its role to that of a trade association for the UK companies, representing them in negotiations and other dealings with government and other authorities on issues of concern and interest to them.


The Tobacco Manufacturers' Standing Committee

  6.  In September 1950 Sir Richard Doll and Professor Austin Bradford Hill published a preliminary report which linked lung cancer with tobacco smoking based on patients from 20 hospitals in the London region. 1 In 1951 the Government referred the matter to their Standing Advisory Committee on Cancer and Radiotherapy and then to a panel under the Government Actuary. In February 1954 the then Minister of Health, the Right Honourable Mr Iain Macleod, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, made a statement in Parliament in which he accepted the Standing Committee's view that the statistical evidence pointed to smoking as a factor in lung cancer and he announced a research grant of £250,000 from the UK tobacco companies to the Medical Research Council (MRC).

  7.  The UK tobacco companies made the grant of £250,000 (about £4,000,000 in today's terms) to the MRC to support a seven year research programme to enable further investigation into smoking and health issues. The companies chose the MRC on the advice of the Minister of Health and because they believed that an impartial and responsible medical body should apply the funds to such projects as it (the MRC) deemed appropriate. The companies did not have any control over the projects selected by the MRC for funding.

  8.  In 1956, the UK companies decided to set up the TMSC whose brief was to:

    " . . . assist research into smoking and health questions, to keep in touch with scientists and others working on this subject in the UK and abroad, and to make information available to scientific workers and the public".2

  9.  In 1957, in its first annual report, the TMSC confirmed that it intended to set up a fund, in addition to the grant to the MRC, to promote and assist research relating to smoking and health. To assist the TMSC to determine which projects to fund, the TMSC entered an arrangement with the British Empire Cancer Campaign so that:

    " . . . it might have the benefit of the advice of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Campaign on schemes of research in the field of cancer for which the support of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Standing Committee had been sought".3

  10.  The TMSC was also assisted in its decision-making by its scientific consultants who included Sir Alfred Egerton (Fellow of the Royal Society and Emeritus Professor of Chemical Technology at the University of London) and Sir Ronald Fisher (Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor of Genetics at the University of Cambridge).

  11.  During the years 1958 to 1960 the TMSC published an annual report which described the main developments in the work of the TMSC. (Later the TRC published reviews of its activities every couple of years or so. These summarised the research financed by it and the work carried out at Harrogate, its own laboratory.) Each annual report detailed the research directly supported by the Committee and noted the research financed through the MRC. The 1960 report also listed the TMSC research papers that had been published to date and noted that a reference library was available at the TMSC's offices for scientists and others working in this field.

  12.  Over the years, the TMSC developed its policy and objectives in research more precisely. These were formulated on the recommendation of the TMSC's scientific advisers and the main fields of research were listed in the annual report for the year ended 31 May 1959.

  13.  The TMSC exercised no control over its grantees, who were free to conduct and pubish their research as they saw fit. In a memorandum submitted to the Expenditure Committee, the policy of the TRC was explained (the TMSC operated by the same policy);

    "Once given these grants are free of strings. The idea for the research comes from the grantee; he alone is responsible for the conduct of the work and the ultimate decisions on publication are his. Indeed the sort of research worker which the Council supports would not come forward on any other terms."4

  14.  From around 1959 the TMSC gave consideration to the implementation of a major research programme. By 1960 a decision had been made to establish its own research laboratory and in September 1962 a purpose-built laboratory was opened at Harrogate. The cost of the purchase of the site and the construction costs were equivalent to about £4 million in today's terms.


  15.  In 1962 the Royal College of Physicians of London (RCP) published a report on Smoking in relation to Cancer of the Lung and Other Diseases. The report concluded that cigarette smoking was a cause of lung cancer and bronchitis, and probably contributed to the development of coronary heart disease and various other less common diseases. The report urged the Government to take "decisive steps . . . to curb the present rising consumption of tobacco, and especially of cigarettes".5

  16.  These events resulted in the members of the TMSC re-assessing their contribution to research in this area. They launched an ambitious research programme, funded and directed jointly by the UK companies themselves. The programme was concerned to investigate which, if any, properties of tobacco products might be responsible for the reported health risks associated with smoking, and how the products might be modified to reduce such risks.

  17.  The TMSC adopted a working hypothesis upon which this research programme should be based. This hypothesis was that cigarette smoke affected the respiratory epithelium (surface layer) by direct contact.

  18.  At this time, to reflect the fact that the TMSC was to conduct its own smoking and health research programme, it was decided that its name should be changed to the Tobacco Research Council from January 1963. The objects of the TRC were to conduct, promote and co-operate in and keep in touch with research into the relationship between smoking and health.

  19.  In the TRC's Review of Past and Current Activities published in 1963, the Director, G F Todd, summarised the programme of research.

    "The programme of research into the main aspects of smoking and health, formerly financed by TMSC and now being financed by the Tobacco Research Council on the basis of the recommendations of medical and scientific advisers, has three main parts, each with several sub-divisions:

    Tobacco and Tobacco Smoke

    (1) Chemical constituents.

    (2) Physical properties.

    (3) Biological effects.

    (4) Pharmacological effects.


    (1) Statistics.

    (2) Genetics.

    (3) Psychology.


    (1) Epidemiological enquiries.

    (2) Sub-groups susceptible to cardio-respiratory disease.

    (3) General medical research."6

  20. In 1967, the TRC published a Review of its Activities for the years 1963-66. This Review gave a comprehensive account of the TRC's activities since 1963 and included summaries of the research projects and experiments which the TRC had conducted at Harrogate or supported financially. The TRC took the view that it should obtain as much relevant information as possible about the chemical nature of tobacco smoke. The TRC had therefore devoted the largest part of its expenditure and effort to chemical research and biological testing, both of which were concentrated at Harrogate:

    "The bio-essay work carried out there is primarily concerned with the possible roles of cigarette smoking in lung cancer. Most of this work is accordingly planned on the working hypothesis that cigarette smoke affects the respiratory epithelium by direct contact . . .

    The second line of research is concerned with people. It comprises a series of studies of widely different kinds to provide information about personal, environmental and other factors in diseases associated with smoking. Information is beginning to emerge about the characteristics of sufferers from these diseases which may ultimately explain why only a monority of smokers and some non-smokers contract any one of them . . .

    There is a third group of projects, which is on a smaller scale and directed at motives for smoking . . .7

  The TRC also made contributions to general medical research.

  21.  This bio-assay work at Harrogate was conducted by a team of scientists under the directorship, initially, of Dr T D Day, formerly of Leeds University. The aims of the research were set, and the results reviewed, by committees of scientists from the member companies as well as scientific consultants. The main work undertaken at Harrogate was a programme of mouse skin-painting. The aim of the mouse skin-painting programme was first to establish the mouse skin-painting test as an adequate quantitative measure of any biological activity in mouse skin of cigarette smoke condensate (produced using smoking machines), and secondly, to identify any substance in cigarette smoke responsible for biological activity. The second objective was to be achieved by testing condensate representing different chemical fractions of cigarette smoke. It was hoped that the results would provide guidance for product modification.

  22.  The results of this bio-assay work were reported initially in a paper by Dr Day in the British Journal of Cancer in March 1967, and attracted wide press coverage. It was also reported in the TRC's Review of Activities 1963-66 which noted:

    "In practical terms an important feature of these results seems to be that they show that in relation to mouse skin there are stable non-volatile neutral carcinogens in cigarette smoke condensate which are worth serious attention and which in particular merit investigation by detailed fractionation."8

  23.  The results were discussed with eminent scientists including Professor Alexander Haddow, Sir Charles Dodds of the British Empire Cancer Campaign, Dr G F Marrian of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Sir Max Rosenheim, President of the Royal College of Physicians, and Dr C M Fletcher.

  24.  By 1969, the major part of the TRC's research effort at Harrogate was concerned with the search for compounds in cigarette smoke with potential biological activity by fractionating the whole smoke and cigarette smoke condensate.

    "The major use to which these facilties has been put has been in support of the chemical fractionation of cigarette smoke condensate. The objective is to discover whether many or only relatively few of the constituents of smoke condensate contribute to the tumorigenicity of the condensate, and to investigate the ways in which they so contribute."9

  25.  This effort continued until 1970 when the TRC re-evaluated the research programme at Harrogate. The TRC concluded that the research could not provide any conclusive guidance on product modification. The Review of Activities, 1967-69 stated that ". . . it may be concluded that this work [on chemical fractionation] has been taken as far as it profitably can." 10

  26.  In 1975, the TRC published a Review of Activities for the years 1970-74. This report confirmed that the TRC had decided "to abandon the attempt to carry the fractionation of condensate any further. The ending of fractionation entailed stopping the series of large-scale mouse skin-painting experiments which had been continuously in progress since the laboratories were set up and which had made a major contribution to the development of this form of bio-assay".11

  27.  In addition to the Harrogate programme, the TRC continued to sponsor academic research in many areas relevant to smoking and health. An examination of the public record will reveal more than 400 published scientific papers of projects which received funding from the TRC.

  28.  By the 1970s, the Government began to focus on product modification initiatives. In 1973 the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health was created (see paragraph 35 et seq) and part of its terms of reference were to review research into ". . . less dangerous smoking". The Lord Hunter of Newington wrote in his covering letter to the Committee's Second Report on Smoking and Health:

    ". . . The second, and I believe more important, part [of the second report] outlines the progress made towards the development of "lower risk" cigarettes." 12

  This initiative encouraged the UK tobacco companies to continue their efforts in relation to product modification, particularly with respect to lower tar yield products, and it was more appropriate that this research should be conducted in-house rather than funded by the industry jointly.

  29.  The TRC nevertheless continued to support independent research projects in a variety of areas.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 6 March 2000