WE’RE ALWAYS HEARING about the influence of ‘Big Tobacco’, but this 1986 letter to the Taoiseach from the chairman of a tobacco company is about as blatant as it gets.
In the letter, Don Carroll of multi-national tobacco company PJ Carrolls’ tells the Taoiseach that the company may decide to stop investing in Irish businesses if a new bill goes through.
At the time, the government were proposing more tobacco regulation including increasing the size of warnings on packets and advertisements.
Carroll argued that his Irish-owned businesses would be hit harder by the laws because they depend so much on the Irish market compared to their competitors.
Essentially, he argues that the Department of Health is going it alone and not considering the consequences which could include Carrolls’ choosing to stop investing in Irish businesses:
Unilateral action by the Minister for Health, within his existing powers, decided on solely in relation to the perspectives of his Department, must have serious discriminatory impacts on Carrolls’ tobacco industry and investment capacity.
It could no longer contemplate the policies which it is now pursuing which envisage new investment outside the tobacco business of some £50 million over the remainder of this decade.
The final three paragraphs above letter contain a complaint that the Minster for Health won’t speak to the tobacco industry:
Surely it would not be unreasonable to request the Taoiseach to secure that no new regulations made by the Minister for Health pending consideration by the relevant government departments of the broader context involved.
Since the minister will not have any discussions with us, there seems no alternative to seeking the Taoiseach’s intervention.
May I say in conclusion that I am conscious of the propensity these days for special interest pleading.
Obviously Carrolls has special interests. But I do believe that an objective consideration of the balance of the considerations would be likely to result in a different conclusion from that which would be reached was action to be taken solely in the light of the perspectives of the Department of Health.