Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Editor's Choice

To dream the impossible dream

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 13 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1521

Rapid Response:

Re: To dream the impossible dream

Like most health professionals who have been campaigning in this area[1 2] we were delighted by the votes in Parliament on Monday to allow the government to ban smoking in cars with children and to make it an offence to buy tobacco products for children. The former measure received an even greater majority (269 MPs) than supported the introduction of smoke free legislation in 2006 (200 MPs) which has improved so many people’s quality of life and delivered real health benefits, for example reducing acute asthma admission in children.[3]

In his Editor’s Choice welcoming this news[4] Tony Delamothe writes, “Reassuringly, the MPs’ register of interests revealed no relation between Big Tobacco and even the most vociferous of the amendment’s opponents.” Leaving aside Kenneth Clarke’s former position as Deputy Chair of British American Tobacco, this unfortunately is incorrect. A number of MP’s who voted against this legislation to protect children in fact have registered interests that include tobacco industry funded trips to see the Chelsea Flower Show. Referenced details with links to the Register of Members’ Interests can be found on the Tobacco Tactics website .

For the record, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) in 2011 gave hospitality in the form of trips to Chelsea Flower Show valued at more than £1,000 to the following MP’s who voted against the ban: Brian Binley (Conservative, Northampton South) who also accepted tickets to the opera at Glyndebourne worth more than £1100; Alun Cairns (Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan); Therese Coffey (Conservative, Suffolk Coastal); Edward Garnier (Conservative, Harborough); James Gray (Conservative, North Wiltshire); Karl McCartney (Conservative, Lincoln), Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock); Richard Ottaway (Conservative, Croydon South); Christopher Pincher (Conservative, Tamworth); Laurence Robertson (Conservative, Tewkesbury); Mark Spencer (Conservative, Sherwood); Angela Watkinson (Conservative, Hornchurch and Upminster). Several of these MP’s also voted against legislation to make it illegal for adults to buy tobacco products for children.

Finally, the revelation that Philip Morris International continue to employ Lynton Crosby's firm, the London-based Crosby Textor Fullbrook and well-documented evidence about the extent of tobacco industry lobbying[1 5] mean that, as with alcohol, there is no room for complacency.

Dr Nicholas S Hopkinson, Senior Lecturer Respiratory Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London

Professor John Britton, Professor of Epidemiology, Nottingham

Professor Martin Mckee, Professor of European Public Health, London

Professor Anna B Gilmore, Director, Professor of Public Health, University of Bath

1. Hopkinson NS, Moxham J, Montgomery H, et al. Tobacco industry lobbyists and their health-care clients. The Lancet 2013;381(9865):445

2. Hopkinson NS, Majeed A, Britton J, et al. Respiratory health professionals call on MPs to vote to ban smoking in cars with children. BMJ 2014;348:g1395 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g1395[published Online First: Epub Date]|.

3. Mackay D, Haw S, Ayres JG, et al. Smoke-free Legislation and Hospitalizations for Childhood Asthma. New England Journal of Medicine 2010;363(12):1139-45 doi: doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1002861[published Online First: Epub Date]|.

4. Delamothe T. To dream the impossible dream. BMJ 2014;348 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g1521[published Online First: Epub Date]|.

5. Savell E, Gilmore AB, Fooks G. How Does the Tobacco Industry Attempt to Influence Marketing Regulations? A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE 2014;9(2):e87389 doi: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087389[published Online First: Epub Date]|.

Competing interests: No competing interests

14 February 2014
Nicholas S Hopkinson
Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine
Professor John Britton, Professor Martin McKee, Professor Anna B Gilmore
National Heart and Lung Insititute, Imperial College, London
Fulham Rd, London SW3 6NP