Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Statement to the House of Commons Health Committee on 13 January 2000

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Statement to the House of Commons Health Committee on 13 January 2000

Article excerpt

British American Tobacco believes and has for decades recognised that along with the pleasures of smoking come real risks of serious diseases such as lung cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease, and that for many people smoking is difficult to quit.

We accept, therefore, that in the most simple and commonly understood sense, smoking is a cause of certain serious diseases. This has been the working hypothesis of much of our research, has been believed by smokers for decades, and is the most appropriate viewpoint for consumers and public health authorities.

People make many lifestyle choices about pleasurable risky products, including smoking. However, let us be clear that smoking is very different from some other risky products, both legal ones, such as alcohol, and illegal ones, such as illicit drugs. Smoking does not intoxicate, does not require ever-increasing consumption to maintain its pleasure, is not a short-term risk to health, does not cause family violence and is not a destabilising risk to society. Today in the UK, even though over a quarter of the adult population smokes, there are more ex-smokers than smokers.

But, let's just accept, for the sake of moving forward, that the popular understanding today is that smoking is addictive. Nevertheless, our consumers are neither fools nor helpless addicts. Our shareholders are not amoral. Our 100,000 employees are not villains. Shopkeepers selling cigarettes are not drug pushers. Ours is a lawful business, generating huge revenues for governments, selling a legal product that forms part of a lifestyle matrix balancing short-term pleasure against long term risks depending entirely on each individual's choice.

So where do we go from here?

I regret that there is a reluctance to work with tobacco companies. The term "Big Tobacco" is used by the antismoking lobby as a pejorative term. …

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