Japan Tobacco International sponsored event cancelled at Scottish Nationalist Party conference but Coca Cola obesity event goes ahead

Sheila Duffy

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) is a political party which was just one seat short of a majority in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election. The SNP currently runs the administration of the Scottish Government in a cooperation agreement with the Scottish Green Party. ASH Scotland became aware of a proposed fringe event organised at the 2022 SNP party conference on Saturday 8th October which was co-sponsored by JTI (Japan Tobacco International) and Dods, the parent company of Holyrood Communications.

The proposed Dods/JTI event featured a panel of speakers from the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute, and the Scottish Grocers Federation, plus a Corporate Affairs Manager from JTI. These organisations are all noted for having previous involvement with the tobacco industry. The University of Bath’s Tobacco Tactics website provides information on each of these organisations. The fringe event entitled ‘Embracing alternatives to smoking in Scotland’ made reference to the Scottish Government’s recent consultation on tightening vaping advertising regulations, and invited delegates to “Join us as we consider what the industry can do to support the Scottish Government’s objectives, particularly to protect children and young people”.

ASH Scotland contacted the SNP’s Chief Executive, Holyrood Events and the two parliamentarians named as speakers, to raise concerns that the tobacco industry and its allies are not public health stakeholders and that the event ran counter to the Scottish Government’s clear commitment to upholding the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Art 5.3 to protect health policy in Scotland from tobacco industry interference. Both parliamentarians withdrew, and the event was cancelled by the organisers.

The existence of the FCTC appears to have been a clear deciding factor, as another fringe event co-sponsored by Coca Cola and Holyrood entitled ‘Tackling Obesity: The Role of Scotland’s Food and Drink Industry’ went ahead. However, the participating MSP referenced in the conference handbook as Co-Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Improving Scotland’s Health, read a short statement which made clear on behalf of the CPG secretariat (ASH Scotland and Alcohol Focus Scotland) that the Group in no way endorsed the event, and operates a strict conflict of interest policy to prevent commercial health-harming industries from influencing health policy discussions.

ASH Scotland is an active member of the NCD (Non-Communicable Disease) Alliance Scotland brought together by the British Heart Foundation Scotland. The NCD Alliance Scotland also supported challenging the JTI/Dods fringe event and continues to work together to drive action on tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods.

Sheila Duffy is the Chief Executive of ASH Scotland in the United Kingdom.


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