Roger Bate: Tobacco consultant or lobbyist?

John Quiggin has some comments on Roger Bate's response to our article in Prospect on Rachel Carson. My response to Bate will take more than one post.

Let's start with this paragraph:

I was never a tobacco lobbyist. After I wrote two articles on tobacco-related topics in 1996 and 1997, I consulted for Philip Morris, at their request, on international health for a total of about a month in 1998. I never lobbied for the company or promoted cigarettes in any way. I subsequently wrote to Philip Morris asking them to provide funding for a campaign to rehabilitate the use of DDT. This letter, which is now on the web, is the source of nearly all Quiggin and Lambert's suppositions. Yet I never even had the courtesy of a reply. Philip Morris never funded the campaign, and I haven't spoken with the company in at least seven years.

What's the best way to describe the work Bate did for tobacco companies? Was he a consultant, giving advice to tobacco companies, or a lobbyist, trying to influence opinion on behalf of the tobacco lobby? Here's Bates own description, from a letter to Philip Morris.

I will be happy to inform you of relevant
people and changes occurring on the International Public Health scene,
and to write reports on salient issues, when I have a comparative
advantage to do so . However, I should stress that my, and my coworkers,
strength is in challenging publicly, in myriad fora, false public
health orthodoxies. I feel that any agreement we arrive at should not
stifle those skills and efforts . Although, having thought further on our
discussion I do not think this will prove problematic,

Bate implies that all he did for tobacco interests was a little consulting on "international health" and that the money did not influence his opinions because it was paid after he wrote the two articles and because Philip Morris approached him. Unfortunately for Bate, the Tobacco Documents are available online, and Bate and the ESEF feature in many of them. To understand the context of these, the Philip Morris Environmental Tobacco Smoke strategy from 1989 is useful:

Objective: Demonstrate that the ETS issue is another example of selectively used science to achieve a political agenda.

  • Sponsor think tanks and political forums to publicize these issues.

Objective: Mitigate the perception of ETS risk by comparing ETS exposure with other unavoidable risks associated with everyday life. Demonstrate that the risk posed by ETS is negliable in comparison to other agents commonly found in our environment.

So in November 1995 Bate had discussions with British-American Tobacco (BAT) about a project on environmental risk that would take the tobacco companies' line:

It was a pleasure meeting you earlier today . Our discussion was interesting and most helpful to the IEA's research.

Later this month I shall send you an outline of our environmental risk project. I will look forward to your comments and hope you will find it worthy of BAT's support.

In mid 1996, Bate informed BAT of ESEF's plans:

US/EU paper : Why regulate nicotine when caffeine is more addictive? A follow up to
the work done by CEI in US where they petitioned the FDA to regulate caffeine . The
aim was to show that the reason for the regulation of nicotine has nothing to do
with the science and a lot to do with empire building by the FDA . The message : - don't
let the EU do the same thing . Needs careful handling - may work best as a news
article by RB .

All the science papers from the proposed risk book, as well as follow-on papers for a second volume on climate change

3 . Work with media to establish the name of ESEF as a scare watchdog. Get key UK
journalists to do pieces on why ESEF "the science watchdog" is necessary . Encourage the media to contact us when health scares occur. ...

7 . Conduct a survey of ESEF members ... to discern how they perceive science to be treated by the media. Questions such as
the following would be asked. ... Do they think that the media abuse/trivialise/ignore
science? The media being narcissistic will definitely carry this story - a useful idea for
establishing our appeal to the media.

In July 1996, Bate wrote to RJ Reynolds asking for £50,000 to fund a book on "low dose risks":

The book will be about 250 pages and contain a media friendly summary. It
should be sent to 2,000 identified media and other policy makers across Europe. ...

I hope you will fund the project attached. It will be a joint effort of ESEF and the IEA -- probably £25,000 to each.

And in August 1996, Bate also asked BAT to fund the book, though this time he asked for twice as much money:

Author Fees and Expenses £20,000
IEA/ESEF costs (overhead, staffing, editors) £20,000
Publication Costs £30,000-45,000
Distribution to opinion formers £5,000
Marketing £5,000
Web Site and monitoring £10,000
Total £90,000-105,000

The BAT Consumer & Regulatory Affairs 1997 Budget (dated October 1996) included a £50,000 contribution to IEA/ESEF for "a brochure on risk assessment":

The brochure: would discuss risk assessment principles, illustrate where a lack of proper rules and openness has lead to politically correct regulatory conclusions (including on the ETS issue). and illustrate the economic importance of not regulating on issues that have little or no importance to health.

In October 1996 a Philip Morris letter suggests he was trying to get Philip Morris to fund it as well:

I was not aware that Roger is also seeking funding from the other cigarette

RJ Reynolds was closely involved with BATE and ESEF in the work on the book. A February 1997 report from RJR states:

Book project with ESEF (European Science and Environment Forum)

  • Got industry aligned and met with editor Roger Bate to discuss current status and publication details.
  • Status : most papers submitted, editing process begun.
  • Publication: negotiations with major U.K. publishing house to ensure maximum distribution and marketing. Target date: in time for Frankfurt Book Fair in autumn.

Background: book is to cover discussion on low-risk epidemiology, threshold theory, and their effects on public health policy . Examples to be drawn from various fields, including ETS . Authors to be renowned scientists without any previous connections to the industry .

And the next month's RJR report states

Follow-up meeting with Roger Bate, ESEF, on book project .

The Tobacco Institute also seems to have helped fund the book

Adam Bryan Brown: Yesterday I asked Adam whether TI has funded any work by Dr. Gori

Jan Fulton Smith: Last piece of work we were involved in was a book on risk by Roger Bate.

BAT worked to maximize the impact of Bate's book:

I also attach a copy of a preview of the book written by Roger Bate, which recently
appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

These materials may help you in maximising the impact of this book in your own
market. Please remember that we have additional copies available at Millbank .
Contact Jacqui Earl or Laura O'Loughlin if you would like copies.

Bate's book was published in Oct 1997 and surprise, surprise, the chapter highlighted in the publicity campaign was:

Research findings published in the book What Risk? cast doubt on the
relationship between lung cancer in non-smokers and environmental tobacco
smoke (secondary smoking).

One of the authors, Professor Robert Nilsson, a senior toxicologist at the
National Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate (the central agency for chemicals
control in Sweden), demonstrates that existing research in this area is based
on faulty sampling. ...

What Risk? is published in association with the European Science and
Environment Forum (ESEF). ESEF is an independent, non-profit making
alliance of scientists whose aim is to ensure that environmental debates are
properly aired, and that decisions which are taken and action that is proposed
are founded on sound scientific principles.

Of course there was no mention of the association of the book with tobacco companies.

The ESEF was then cited by journalists as part of their balanced coverage of the risks of ETS. For example, Nigel Hawkes in The Times March 1998:

PASSIVE smoking and its effects on health is a controversy that will not go away. Three weeks
ago the Government's Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health declared that clear evidence
from studies involving thousands of people showed that passive smoking increased the risk of
lung cancer by 26 per cent and the risk of heart disease by 23 per cent.

The report rested on studies published last year in the British Medical Journal by a team at St
Bartholomew's Hospital and the Royal London School of Medicine. Tobacco companies
expressed doubts about the quality of the evidence, but the Government is expected to draw
heavily on it in preparing a White Paper on smoking, due out this summer.

Now a toxicologist unconnected with the tobacco industry, Professor Robert Nilsson of
Stockholm University, has launched a powerful criticism of the science . The risk of contracting
lung cancer from passive smoking is "extremely small, or even negligible", he says. "Led by a
strongly felt conviction that tobacco smoke is a major health risk, some scientists and
physicians seem, to a varying degree, to have shelved their efforts to analyse the possible
effects of environmental tobacco smoke in the rigorous and objective manner that scientific
method requires." His criticisms, published as a working paper of the European Science and
Environment Forum, are lengthy and detailed.

Then we have the letter (Sep 1998) that Bate claimed was the source for nearly all our suppositions:

As you probably know I was working for PMCS Brussels at a rate of 800
pounds sterling a day . I would be content to continue to work at the same

Philip Morris folks commented on Bate and his proposal. David Bushong:

Bate returned value for money. Without knowing more about what you wil have him do I can't judge his proposal. By copy of this to John, I invite his more recent opinion.

John Roberts:

I think Bate is a very valuable resource and have strongly recommended that he play some role at UN level . I recall that we paid him up to GBP 10,0000 per month.

Bate continued to work with BAT. A Jan 1999 BAT action list to organise opposition to the WHO International Convention on Tobacco Control contains this item:

This CP and PR to make with Roger Bate at European Science and Environmental
Forum to see what action can be achieved .

Bate's partner in founding Africa Fighting Malaria, Richard Tren, also makes an appearance in the Tobacco Documents, as the first author of a review of a World Bank report on the economics of tobacco control:

One can only speculate on why the Report was published, since its biases discount it from being a
useful economic study. But perhaps it will serve a useful political purpose by furthering calls for greater
international control of tobacco . Perhaps the World Bank and the Report 's authors may benefit from
the earmarked tobacco taxes the Report advocates.

And that's just some of the documents in the Tobacco Archive.

I'll save further analysis of Bate's response for another post.


More like this

This is a reminder that:

1) The Tobacco Archives are a truly wonderful resource.

2) These days, people leave searchable electronic tracks that make it far for difficult for them to rewrite history than it used to be.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 27 May 2008 #permalink

Ah, Mr Bate. It's funny how these tobacco lobbyists also embrace climate scepticism.

Bate is also tied up with the International Policy Network, which Exxon stopped funding last year. (The IPN set up a North America branch in 2003 and received a total of $390,000 from Exxon).

Here's a little map of his Exxon-funded friends

Ha ha funny, or up-against-the-wall-when-the-revolution-comes funny?

Cindy: I've long been curious about whether:

1) tobacco lobbyists later embrace {climate | CFC | acid rain | mercury} skepticism. OR

2) someone believes in "no regulation", and inherently, funds tend to be available from those that especially need help in avoiding regulation. OR

3) a lobbyist with no particular beliefs finds that funds are available, as in 2). OR

4) tobacco companies seek out 2) and maybe 3) to "hide" amidst the others not wishing regulation.

Interestingly, while many companies prefer minimal cumbersome regulation, there are plenty who want to do "the right thing" and prefer enough regulation that they don't get disadvantaged in doing so. As far as I can tell, this doesn't apply to cigarette companies.

Also, there actually do exist ethical & reasonable PR companies, although again, those that work for cigarette companies... ugh.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 27 May 2008 #permalink

John: good question

I think it's a combo of (1), (2) and (4) but (3) "lobbiest with no particular beliefs..." doesn't stand up - these guys usually tout their beliefs first... they don't get picked up unless they have exhibited sceptic tendencies.

The George C Marshall Institute's Fred Seitz first started the organisation to support Reagan using the Cold War to push for more missile defence systems. Perhaps it was this stance (and his use of the media's need for "balance" to get his arguments placed) ...which then led the tobacco industry to co-opt him.

They then moved on to climate scepticism (because there was funding available) and picked up rent-a-mouth Fred Singer who argued against climate, ozone depletion, endochrine disrupters, nukes, toxic waste and even whaling... as well as being an "expert" on second hand smoke.

Fred picks up whatever work he can get for whatever anti-regulation conservative think tank he can find.

Marshall was essentially an anti-regulation, free market think tank, the same as the rest of them.

You say "Interestingly, while many companies prefer minimal cumbersome regulation, there are plenty who want to do "the right thing" and prefer enough regulation that they don't get disadvantaged in doing so. As far as I can tell, this doesn't apply to cigarette companies."

I would add that this could also be argued on the climate front with the big coal and oil giants continuing to fight regulation and funding sceptic think tanks, whilst other US companies are wanting to do the right thing.

The link between smoking causes cancer denialists and global warming denialists is pretty thin.

Everyone in North America knows that smoking causes lung cancer and horrible death just as they know that having your head chopped of results in nearly instantaneous death.

Global warming doesn't have quite as strong a track record yet.

On the contrary, the arguments, leading personnel (Singer, Seitz, Milloy) and institutional base (Marshall, Cato, IPA etc) of smoking delusionism and GW delusionism have a great overlap.

This is particularly true in relation to passive smoking, where the evidence, though compelling in aggregate is nothing like as overwhelming as it is for active smoking. Having edited the passive smoking article in Wikipedia I'm struck all the time by the commonalities.

By John Quiggin (not verified) on 27 May 2008 #permalink

re: #5 cindy
Have you seen Naomi Oreskes' American Denial of Global Warming ? Note that Seitz was already working as a consultant for R. J Reynolds before he retired from Rockefeller in 1979, well before he, Nierenberg, and Jastrow started GMI, and long before they started on AGW denialism.
Naomi's also done a talk (not on video yet, as far as I know) about Western Fuels Association early marketing campaign. I've reviewed a couple chapters of the book she's working on, and it's good material; hope to see it out within a year.

re: #7 John
To be clear, I think there is massive overlap [as you might guess from other posts], I'm just curious about the different directions and motivations. There are clearly:

-- tobacco supporters galore (as enumerated in Allan Brandt's "The Cigarette Century".) who as far as I know, have never been big in AGW.

-- tobacco + anti-AGW (lots of overlap, well-known)

-- anti-AGW, no obvious connection with tobacco.
These seem rare around Washington DC, but I haven't noticed strong connections with tobacco for:

your usual Oz and NZ deniers [are there such connections?]
Ferguson's SPPI doesn't seem to say much about tobacco.
UK's (misnomered) Scientific Alliance has no obvious tobacco interests or at least don't talk about it.

Anyway, I think there is huge overlap, especially in US-based thinktanks / PR firms, but there are others that don't.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 27 May 2008 #permalink

Bate of course is narrowly construing lobbyist in the sense of legislative lobbying. Perhaps you might ask him if he has ever directly been funded by tobacco companies, and associated foundations/lobbyists (0bviously yes). You might also ask him if he ever solicited funding for himself or institutions he was working for from same and why. Maybe after he tries to weasel that one you might ask him why he thought they were giving him money

Eli is happy to have done his bit on uncovering this bit of offal. What Bate is and was, of course, is certain proof that there is not a just God. In his case one might hope for a long and toasty afterlife.

Cindy (or anyone else who knows), I'm very interested in seeing any material that may exist analyzing the entire network of these think tanks and their funders. It seems clear that what we're seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. Obviously there are many more issues, many more funders (a range of polluting/extracting industries plus the right-wing foundations like Scaife) and presumably much more cross-cutting funding (for purposes of deniability) such as we saw with Bate's application to a tobacco company for funding for his DDT campaign.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 28 May 2008 #permalink

I'm just reading George Monbiot's 'Heat', where he ties together those that were operating for the tobacco companies (particularly on passive smoking) and the AGW denalists. Indeed, he suggests that the tobacco campaign deliberately pushed anti-AGW as part of its overall campaign against stronger smoking legislation .

Certainly the same people pop up in both campaigns, and a quick look at sites like Sourcewatch shows just how shameless these people are in snagging work from almost anyone willing to pay (often not even all that much).

I note that Steve Milloy seems to be heading up a campaign to push back against the Exxon shareholders trying to push for a greener company - well, he has worked for them in the past....

I'm glad that the global-warming alarmists have gone all out to "prove" the connections between the sceptics and "industry" - and found myriad links between sceptics (ie. those who live in reality) and... the tobacco industry.

In any case, Bate's subject is DDT - not a `greenhouse' gas so far as I know.

Even if you could prove that Bate or anyone else is `linked' to the carbon industry (which, in any case, is embracing Kyoto as it will make their product much more expensive, artificially, and their profits much higher as a consequence), it is all irrelevant.

If you had any argument to make against Bate, you would; but you don't and so you have to attack him as a `stooge of industry.'

All out of the Marxist rulebook, I should think.

> All out of the Marxist rulebook, I should think.

CLINTON DID IT TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As The Editors said, "after using this 10-12 times a day, it's got to start sounding like, well, an excuse."

Actually r.b. old duck, our argument against Bate is that he himself put up a sign saying he was for sale although he was not cheap. As George Shaw was rumored to have said to Lady Astor (?), having established the principle, the rest is haggling.