At the end of July 1961, the Ministry of Health undersecretary J P Dodds asked Dr Neville Goodman, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, whether a preview of the Royal College of Physicians report might be possible. Dr Goodman responded:
Alas! the report and its contents are ‘secreta Collegia’. CMO has seen and let me – as another Fellow – have a quick glance but if we were to let the Dept. have it we are probably liable to some frightful penalty (?drawing and quartering) under an Act of Henry VIII! I can only say that I think it will give us the needed springboard.
Nevertheless, a draft was circulated in the Ministry on 1 November: Sir George Godber recalls: ‘Charles [Fletcher] sent me the draft report and I got Enoch Powell to read it and be ready’. The draft was officially submitted to the Minister by Sir Bruce Fraser with a covering minute:
So clear and comprehensive a report from so authoritative a source is bound to make a considerable public impression and the Government will of course be pressed to say what attitude they take to the report in general and to the suggestions for Government action in particular. Of these suggestions the first (more health education) and the last (anti-smoking clinics) are the business of the Health Departments
and he referred to the suggestions the Department of Health for Scotland ‘have been working up’ before continuing:
It seems to me that the Government collectively must at least reconsider the question . . . Hitherto the general policy has been [to publish the facts but] that the choice of action should be left to individuals, since the Government ought not to be too grandmotherly. The dividing line depends, of course, on the degree of the health hazard. Drugs of addiction are banned, tobacco and alcohol are not . . . I think it is difficult to resist the argument that the Government ought to take more strenuous publicity action, particularly in respect of children. Beyond that it can be said that if people choose to smoke themselves to death (or drink themselves to death or work themselves to death) freedom of choice should prevail.
He suggested that ‘it would be as well at an early date, in conjunction with the Scots, to bring the conclusions of the report to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee [of the Cabinet] so that the Government may be ready with their reaction when, or shortly after, the report is published.’
Powell scarcely referred to these points but focussed directly on what – as he correctly surmised – is the single most powerful means of reducing tobacco consumption: price. He quoted scathingly from the report:
‘It seems unlikely that increased taxation would have any lasting deterrent effect’ (para. 117). A statement so patently wrong in a Report of such general carefulness and detachment as that of the Royal College of Physicians is breath-taking. How many packets of cigarettes would be sold if the duty was £1000 – or £50 – or £1? . . .
The Government has it in its power, without prohibition or interference directly with anyone’s freedom of choice, to cut cigarette smoking whenever and to whatever extent it pleases. Indeed, given the probable flatness of the demand curve, they could combine a big cut in consumption with no reduction, and possibly an increase, in revenue. If duty were increased for explicitly public health reasons, the odium would be much less than with ordinary increases of taxation, and it would be possible to use a cost-of-living index which excluded tobacco. . .
In my opinion if the Government is unwilling to use this power – was it not the method used against gin (para.2)? – then health education and all the rest is merely humbug and will be felt and seen to be such. In any case, ‘health education’ has already gone a long way (paras. 106, 108) without producing the slightest effect, and I don’t believe advertising makes any difference one way or the other.
The publication of the Report will excite temporary interest and for weeks afterwards we shall have to answer a shower of tiresome Questions about what the Government is not doing; but unless my colleague [i.e., the Chancellor of the Exchequer] is prepared to use the fiscal weapon, I personally propose to indulge in as little humbug as I can get away with.
He concluded by suggesting a high-level meeting with the Treasury.
Fraser replied with the department’s customary but determined moderation. When he had suggested ‘more strenuous publicity action’ he had not had in mind anything as substantial as the £1m. campaign the Secretary of State for Scotland, in a draft paper just to hand, was now suggesting. He concentrated his fire, however, on his own Minister, who was showing dangerous signs of stepping out of line. It was not possible, he wrote, to maintain that ‘a really swingeing increase’ in tax did not interfere with anyone’s freedom of choice:
All sorts of objections can be raised against taxing the habit virtually out of existence. Interference with freedom of choice and with established social customs, savage damage to an almost major manufacturing industry and the investors therein, unemployment among the industry’s employees and – politically perhaps more significant – damage to the livelihood of many small shopkeepers, increase in the cost of living index and consequent pressure for higher wages, all suggest themselves; and I think the decision will be seen to be more difficult on political than on fiscal grounds. Hence I am sure that it should be brought before Ministers collectively as soon as possible.
One has to reckon with the possibility that Ministers will not face the odium of a crushing increase in tax. You clearly will not be able to take the attitude, either publicly or with your colleagues, that because the Chancellor has not taken the drastic action which you would have liked and which would, in your view, have rendered other action unnecessary, you are therefore excused from taking such minor action as is open to you in your own field. I think, therefore, it is our duty to be considering what we could usefully do by way of further publicity, anti-smoking clinics, or the like. There will be heavy pressure on you (and on any other Ministers who may have minor contributions to make) to enable these measures to be dressed up as forming together an adequate Government policy in the face of the threat to health. Here no doubt is where the danger of humbug will come in.
Even so soon before the Report was published, concern at the highest official level in the Ministry was with appearances rather than reality.
The year ended with a flurry of calls to control tobacco advertising. Thomas Galbraith, a junior Scottish Office minister, asked for a brief on this (and on the industry’s progress in making safer cigarettes) and was discouraged on both fronts. Francis Noel-Baker MP pressed in correspondence with the Board of Trade and the Post Master General (Reginald Bevins) for a ban on television advertising during the hours children were watching, or else altogether as with advertising for spirits and was told the former could not be defined while there was no ban on advertising spirits, only ‘a gentlemen’s agreement about cut-throat competition’. Italy was reported to be introducing a ban on tobacco advertising. The BMJ urged that there was ‘a strong case for curtailing tobacco advertising’, alleging a precedent in Sweden, as well as controls on smoking on public transport and in cinemas and theatres and enforcement of the law banning sales to under-16s. The BMA published 100,000 copies of a booklet Smoking – The Dangers, and Dr George Godber, now Chief Medical Officer, featured warnings about smoking in his first annual report.
Anticipation of the Royal College report was driving tobacco share prices down, as cuttings on Board of Trade files reveal, and the industry needed to step up its lobbying. A minute by Sir Frank Lee, the joint permanent secretary at the Treasury, to Sir Thomas Padmore, second secretary, reports that Partridge, now Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Imperial Tobacco, ‘came to see me this afternoon’ (21 February 1962) to ask to which Ministers they should send their comments on the forthcoming report. (Personal contact is so much more effective than a telephone enquiry, let alone consulting a yearbook!) The Board of Trade’s permanent secretary, Sir Richard Powell, received a copy of the minute and wrote:
We are of course so heavily dependent upon revenue from tobacco, which is now £880 million a year, that anything that seriously affected this revenue would be a very serious matter for the Chancellor. My own guess is that there will be a severe and immediate impact, the effect of which will gradually wear off, and that there will be a further drive towards filter tips. I doubt however whether there will be any serious permanent loss of revenue, but even if there is the public will soon find something else on which to spend its spare money, and this will no doubt be vulnerable to tax in some way.
However, the Treasury had by mid-January 1962 already convinced itself that the Health Department was sufficiently under control not to rock the tax boat: with a proposal coming forward to abolish the licensing of tobacco retailers, Sir Frank wrote to the Chancellor’s private office:
As you know, I am becoming much more doubtful about whether (a) we shall be getting far reaching proposals from the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State [for Scotland], (b) even if we do, whether they will be accepted by the Government (i.e., in the form of fiscal measures).
I would therefore go ahead with this harmless reform ‘regardless’. We could always back-track before the Budget if there were a real campaign against smoking (though the maintenance of the licensing system would not really help such a campaign, except very marginally.
What was happening in the Ministry of Health? Early in January Enoch Powell received a strong note from his colleague David Eccles, the Minister of Education:
I must declare my interest. I have the medical profession in my blood and my younger brother has died of lung-cancer. He was a heavy smoker.
Eccles had read the advance copy of the RCP report; he thought it obvious that ‘the tobacco manufacturers have recently been aiming their advertisements more and more at young people’ with messages that not smoking was ‘square’ and that linked smoking and romance; and
I want to be ready to go into action when the Royal College of Physicians’ Report comes out. Could we discuss this?
A day later Powell met John Maclay, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and they
agreed that the next step should be the preparation at official level of a publicity scheme from which it would be possible to judge how much could effectively be done without other Government action. The assumption would be a campaign not merely supported by but largely conducted by Central Government . . . It would be necessary to consider whether such a campaign could be confined to plugging of the facts without spilling over into direct exhortation on the Government’s behalf to cut down or give up smoking.
Sir Bruce Fraser ends his note of the meeting by recording that a paper was to be quickly prepared for the Home Affairs Committee of the Cabinet and ‘shown to the Treasury in the ordinary way’.
He attached to his note a two-page plan for a publicity campaign that the Scottish Office had handed over at the meeting. It called for discussions with the medical profession to ensure their cooperation (something which never happened throughout the period under review) followed by a two-stage publicity campaign, first briefing ‘those who influence opinion’ including Ministers, local authorities, trade unionists, employers, teachers, clergy, leaders of voluntary organisations and others, then using TV, press and poster advertising, editorial support in the media, etc., leading on to local authority bans on smoking in public places and advice on how to stop smoking, including ‘stop smoking clinics’. It envisaged the need for full-time qualified staff.
By contrast with the strategic thinking of this plan, however outline in form, the mood at an internal Ministry of Health meeting that Sir Bruce called on 15 January 1962 was already defensive and thinking was on a small scale. ‘The most obvious feature at present was the sense of defeatism among local authorities. They had not been given a national lead since 1958 and their educational and advertising efforts were puny . . . horrific posters were now more acceptable to the public [but] the only free sites likely to be available were in public conveniences’ (to which is added in manuscript ‘and perhaps GPs’ surgeries’). ‘It would cost £50,000 p.a. to have an effective poster campaign against smoking. It would obviously be desirable to have television advertising too, if the I[ndependent] T[elevision] A[uthority] was prepared to grant time to opposition to one of its chief sources of revenue’ but this would cost £52,000 p.a. for one minute a week. Sir Bruce put off any thought of television advertising until after the Government had considered prohibiting tobacco advertising on TV. Overall, however, any publicity campaign faced major obstacles: the RCP report (according to the note of the meeting) ‘was full of loopholes’, the Scottish Office plan was unsound in parts; and (amazingly) ‘there was still no proof of the smoking-cancer connection’.
Heald, the Ministry’s public relations expert, then wrote a long memorandum. Having stated that he was not a smoker himself, he made a number of preliminary points, including that the RCP report was too technical, qualified and ambivalent to provide the basis for unequivocal statements such as were needed. ‘Publicity starts, therefore, with a tremendous deadweight of handicap; any advertising is bound to be countered by an increased volume of advertising by the tobacco interests as long as such advertising is allowed’ – and there was little chance of getting parents, doctors and teachers to stop and so set a good example (actually the ‘increasing tendency of doctors to be non-smokers’ had been noted at Sir Bruce’s meeting). He outlined possible campaigns costing £20,000, £123,000 or £800,000 but went on:
It is difficult to resist the view that the attempt to change a widespread popular habit which involves three-quarters of the male population (and an increasing proportion of the women) and which in many cases amounts to what is virtually an addiction, would in the absence of what would be generally regarded as clear and positive proof that smoking inevitably causes lung cancer and other diseases, be doomed (in my considered opinion) to failure.
It was therefore ‘hard to justify the vast sums envisaged’ (in an £800,000 campaign) especially as
the tobacco interests would not be idle during this time and would undoubtedly take up the challenge by doubling their advertising expenditure and public and press relations activities . . . There would undoubtedly be a massive counterattack launched by the tobacco interests with counterarguments as skilful as they would be insidious, which might succeed in raising fresh doubts and call for retaliation on an equally large scale. The question in my mind is whether the Government can base convincingly and justify the necessary action which will be unpopular upon an interpretation of the facts rather than upon obviously proven facts which speak for themselves and admit no argument (at least in the mind of the man in the street and in the factory).
Dame Enid Russell-Smith forwarded these ideas to the Permanent Secretary, adding her own judgement that a major campaign could not be justified unless ‘there were a real chance of effecting a marked change in national smoking habits’ – which there was not. Instead, there should be a small-scale campaign directed at parents and student teachers. ‘Doctors’ waiting-rooms would be splendid sites’ for posters – ‘moreover the Tobacco Companies could not follow us here!’ (The idea of the industry undertaking massive counter-publicity to any Government campaign is found time and again on the files, often advanced as a good reason for doing nothing.)
She then set out the limits on Government action to compel changes of behaviour. ‘So far, broadly speaking, the State has not sought to compel anyone to stop doing harm to his own health . . . Although lack of exercise is said to be the cause of much illness in middle life, we have not followed Mussolini in compelling senior Civil Servants to take part in athletics . . .’ As with alcohol, ‘the regulation relating to drugs of addiction . . . also appear (sic) to be aimed at the social consequences just as much as at the safeguarding of health.’ It would be a new departure to argue from the cost to the National Health Service of self-damaging behaviour and while such a line of argument might seem reasonable it would not stop at smoking: action on alcohol could be similarly supported and the ‘the powerful anti-drink lobby in the Blue Riband movement, The Independent Order of Rechabites, etc., . . . could be counted on to push it.’ By contrast there was ‘very little in the way of an anti-smoking lobby’ – in fact, ‘the most effective measure to limit smoking’ might well be ‘the promotion of a voluntary anti-smoking movement’. (Action on Smoking and Health was not to be founded until 1971, when the Royal College of Physicians produced their second report on the subject, while the National Society of Non-Smokers was less concerned with smoking than with what is now called passive smoking.)
Dame Enid ended by countering Enoch Powell’s reference to the ‘fiscal and regulatory measures . . . taken in 1751 to limit the consumption of gin’, referring to G M Trevelyan to suggest (in a way difficult to read in Trevelyan’s own words) that the subsequent fall in gin drinking ‘may have been at least in part due to the supplanting in popular favour of gin by tea, which also carried a heavy duty at the time . . . No likely substitute [for smoking] has so far appeared. Even a voluntary movement is unlikely to get very far by pushing chewing gum as an alternative.’
Sir Bruce then sent the papers to Enoch Powell with a sharp reminder of the current Government policy of relying on local authorities and warning him against unilateral action such as he had apparently suggested was within his Departmental competence:
I do not think, with respect, that this view is sustainable. Any Government campaign, however modest, requires a decision to change existing policy and I do not think you are entitled to go ahead without such a decision consciously and collectively taken.
‘Complete consideration of all the possibilities’ for Government action was indeed ‘likely to be a very prolonged process’ but the Health and Education Ministers might be able to get agreement to going ahead alone ‘provided that Treasury authority is forthcoming for the spending of money’ – although ‘it might be objected that to spend even £20,000 would be a waste of money in the absence of those other Government measures, without which, as you made plain in your paper, a publicity campaign, whether modest or elaborate, would have little effect.’ A modest campaign directed at schoolchildren was acceptable, but the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour would need to be consulted: ‘once you get the Government’s feet wet . . . it is going to be difficult for the Government to keep the rest of its body dry.’ When the Royal College of Physicians report came out, the line might be (subject to his colleagues’ approval) that ‘on health grounds the Government agree with the proposition that cigarette smoking ought to be discouraged’ but the report’s ‘suggestions for Government action raise wide issues, on which the Government have not yet reached a conclusion’ save to go ahead with the campaign for schoolchildren.
Powell, Eccles and Maclay had already two days earlier circulated an anodyne paper to the Cabinet’s Home Affairs Committee. It quoted the Royal College report’s conclusions and recommendations and attached a paper by officials outlining possible publicity campaigns costing £20,000, £125,000 or £1 mn. The Ministers stated their intentions for a school- and parent-focussed campaign at a cost of about £20,000, but added that ‘no publicity campaign, however costly or elaborate, would by itself have more than a strictly limited effect’ unless the Government also took ‘such other measures as lie to their hand to reduce the present level of consumption of cigarettes.’
The matter is clearly one of great social, political and indeed industrial importance, and our colleagues will wish to consider it on broad lines. As the Ministers responsible for the health and education services, we feel that we must urge strongly the case for the Government to use all the practical means in their power to discourage smoking, particularly of cigarettes.
When the paper was discussed, the Home Affairs Committee recognised the pressure likely to come on the Government for action but decided that the recommendations in the report ‘would present serious difficulties and it would be advisable to avoid any commitment to give effect to them without further closer examination of their implications.’ The Cabinet had to be forewarned of the report; meantime, it was decided to set up a committee of officials to consider the whole subject.
The Cabinet paper – by R A Butler, the Home Secretary – proposed answers to Parliamentary Questions that might buy time for further consideration of the broader topics. The Minister of Health would reply that he and the Secretary of State for Scotland would
shortly be asking the local health authorities to use all channels of health education to make the conclusions of the Report known and to discourage smoking on health grounds, particularly of cigarettes. We shall be giving them guidance and providing them with publicity material. We are also consulting with the Central and Scottish Councils for Health Education about ways in which they can help.
The Minister of Education would make a similar reply about seeking the cooperation of local education authorities and teachers to make the dangers of smoking clear to schoolchildren ‘and to discourage the formation of the smoking habit’.
In discussion at Cabinet, the ‘new departure’ of taking action ‘to check habits which, indulged in to excess, would endanger health’ was remarked on as a departure from the policy of leaving decisions to ‘the judgement of individuals’. Moreover
The present revenue from tobacco amounted to over £800 million a year. Any action likely to lead to a sudden and substantial reduction in this figure would need to be considered in its fiscal as well as in its political and health aspects.
The draft Parliamentary Answers were approved – but two days later Selwyn Lloyd, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had had second thoughts:
He feared that, if the Government publicly committed themselves to a policy of ‘discouraging’ adults from smoking, this might prejudice the consideration . . . of the further measures contemplated in the Report . . . After discussion it was agreed that it would be preferable that the Government should not at this stage appear to be assuming a responsibility for ‘discouraging’ adults from smoking
and the draft Answers should be amended accordingly, along with the circulars to local education and health authorities.
The Government had had advance copies of Royal College report for four months and had deferred action for months before that until the report could provide a suitable peg. Yet this was the state of readiness of the Government when the report was finally published on 7 March 1962. And within two days there was even a quarrel between the Ministers of Health and Education, the latter (Heald warned Sir Bruce) seeing the issue of posters by the Ministry of Health as a trespass on his territory and demanding that no posters should be issued before ‘careful study . . . even if this meant a delay of weeks or even months’. The quarrel was not resolved until 20 March.
By contrast the tobacco companies were characteristically well prepared. On 2 February their ‘chief research scientist’ Dr Bentley had been on television announcing the formation of an industry biological research unit: ‘If any harmful substance should be discovered in cigarette smoke, they are confident they would be able to remove it by modifying the cigarette or altering the manufacturing process.’ The Board of Trade, which was the industry’s sponsor ministry and had close connections with it, in briefing its ministers on the report, managed to combine criticism of its ‘obscurities’ and doubts about the effectiveness of its recommendations, given the robustness of demand which had increased annually for the last eleven years despite cancer scares, with self-contradictory but lurid warnings about the revenue implications, the dangers for Rhodesia, the risk to the jobs of 40,000 tobacco workers and (more serious) ‘the effect on the 427,000 licensed retailers many of whom depend on small shops’. The brief noted the absence from the report of the possibility of a safer cigarette on which ‘we know . . . (from Mr Partridge of Imperial) that the manufacturers are arranging to spend a good deal of money’.
When the report came out, the industry (to whom the College had with an old-fashioned but misplaced sense of fair play given an advance copy) issued three documents simultaneously. A two-page press release summarised a five-page statement from the Tobacco Advisory Committee. These supported (as the industry always does) the law banning sales to under-16s, played down the amount of tobacco advertising (‘only 1½d in the £ of retail sales, compared with 3d in the £ for all consumer goods and services’ – a manuscript annotation on the Ministry of Health file notes that if tobacco tax was excluded the spend was equivalent to about 6d in the £), criticised as inequitable any increase in tobacco tax (‘it would penalise the many millions of smokers who derive pleasure and solace from smoking and who, as the report shows, do not develop the diseases in question’) and mocked the report’s muddled recommendation to print on cigarette packets the nicotine and tar contents, quoting the report itself as saying that ‘no claim should be made that any particular brand of cigarette was safer than any other’.
The third document was a 52-page printed commentary by Geoffrey Todd as ‘Director, Tobacco Manufacturers’ Standing Committee for Research into the Effects of Smoking on Health’. This, with a wealth of miscellaneous statistics and quotations, sought to cast doubt on the effects of smoking on health (except in a vulnerable minority whom research should be directed to identifying) and to condemn air pollution as the main culprit. ‘Sir Ronald Fisher has claimed that genotypic factors and air pollution by themselves adequately account for the incidence of lung cancer. . . [and] that the evidence against air pollution is more complete than that against smoking’. Research should also concentrate on the biological effects of tobacco smoke ‘so that the precise effect, if any, on the heart and respiratory system’ could be ascertained.
The Royal College report nevertheless attracted extensive press coverage and intense public interest. At the Imperial Tobacco annual general meeting later in the month the chairman, R W Clarke, was moved to deplore the volume of ‘singularly ill-informed . . . public comment’ and went on to emphasise the bona fides of the industry (‘the tobacco manufacturers . . . fully recognise their responsibility to the public’) and their devotion to further research (‘many questions yet to be answered; . . . general condemnation of cigarette smoking is neither justified nor constructive’). (Research was and remains the industry’s constant excuse for perpetual procrastination.) The Financial Times reported a week after the College’s report came out that cigarette sales were down by 5-10% (while sales of pipe tobacco and cigars, given a relatively clean bill of health by the report, were up), and that tobacco shares had fallen; on 3 May it reported that filter cigarette sales had risen 10% in eight weeks, lifting their market share from 17% in June 1961 to 26%. In a leading article the paper called for a Government campaign of ‘education and assistance’ directed at adults as well as children and for the industry to moderate its advertising. It said that despite the fact that tobacco tax accounted for 14% of total public revenue, ‘the financial aspect of the matter must firmly be given second place. The tax on cigarettes must be raised – not by a small amount . . . but by an amount so large as to risk an actual loss of revenue.’ Nearly two dozen Parliamentary Questions found their way onto Ministry of Health files between March and July.
In mid-April, Heald, the Ministry’s public relations chief, produced an assessment:
The influence of the R.C.P. Report and of Government statements and action on public opinion has been remarkable and has gone much farther and faster than might have been anticipated. There are probably two reasons for this: (a) the Press have been greatly impressed by the action of the R.C.P., a body which is rarely in the limelight and never seeks it, in setting up an authoritative committee and in that committee’s three years work on the subject; in fact they accepted the main conclusions of the Report without seeking to pick holes in it; (b) the statements made by Ministers and Government spokesmen and the evidence of Government concern seen in the issue of posters and the promise of more to come has brought home to the public that the Government means business this time and that they should treat the matter seriously.
The problem is to maintain the impetus and the snowball effect of the public relations campaign. This will not be easy and will involve a continued effort of stimulation of local authorities, schools, youth clubs, parents/teachers associations, women’s organisations and other voluntary bodies . . .
He proceeded to argue for additional staff in the Public Relations division, concluding that
if the impetus of the public relations campaign . . . can be satisfactorily maintained difficult though this may be, and we succeed in getting a movement going in schools, youth clubs and voluntary bodies, where direct access to the audience is possible and where it is not possible for the tobacco interests to mount a direct counter-offensive, then a commercial advertising campaign can be held in reserve either for the purpose of a counter-attack, if and when the tobacco interests retaliate with a massive onslaught, or if all goes well to clinch the argument and consolidate the successes gained. 
But that is to anticipate. On 12 March Enoch Powell found himself pressed hard at Question Time (in particular by Frank Allaun, Marcus Lipton and Kenneth Robinson) on lack of resources for smoking prevention, the inadequacy of official publicity (in particular the failure to use television and press advertising), the need to ban cigarette advertisements on television and to act on poster industry censorship of anti-smoking posters. The next day saw similar points raised in a short debate in the House of Lords, which was answered in conciliatory tones by Lord Hailsham. Simultaneously the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Selwyn Lloyd, announced in the House of Commons that the Treasury found significant problems in the Royal College of Physicians’ recommendation for differential taxation of cigarettes and of apparently safer forms of smoking such as pipes and cigars since tobacco was taxed as leaf on import into the UK rather than as manufactured products. When the Budget came on 9 April Lloyd, giving as reasons the cost of a change and the risk of smokers avoiding tax by making their own cigarettes at home from pipe tobacco, left the tax unchanged at 3s.4d. on a pack costing 4s.6d.
Back on 12 March BBC television devoted its Panorama programme to the report, and the Ministry of Health obtained a transcript. Richard Dimbleby showed a cancerous lung and quoted Enoch Powell stating in Parliament that afternoon that the Government accepted ‘that the Report demonstrates authoritatively and crushingly the causal connection’ between lung cancer and smoking – no further prevarication about the causal nature of the connection – and gave figures for the risks of smoking (‘a 20-cigarette a day man has 16 times more risk of dying [of lung cancer than a non-smoker], and a 40-cigarette a day man is 29 times more likely to die . . .’). ‘Now about six weeks – in fact exactly six weeks ago today,’ Dimbleby continued, ‘I gave up cigarette smoking myself after smoking about 40 a day,’ – too late, of course, we now know, as he died from lung cancer less than four years later. He talked to a doctor who was running a pioneering anti-smoking clinic and to some of his clients and contrasted the millions spent by the industry on advertising with the £5,000 allocated by the Government to warn people of the dangers.
Robert Kee then interviewed E J (‘John’) Partridge, billed as chairman of the TMSC, and Sir Robert Platt, the president of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of its committee. Partridge said he did not accept the ‘sweeping assertions’ in the report or Enoch Powell’s assessment of them. When Sir Robert said that ‘we must stop young people smoking’ Partridge would not agree and called instead for research on the characteristics of those who proved vulnerable to lung cancer, on air pollution and laboratory studies of the effects of tobacco smoke. Platt replied effectively that the research had already been done – on living populations. Lung cancer in his youth was a rare disease, and ‘the personal characteristics of the British race’ had not suddenly altered in the past 40 years. Partridge said the industry was ‘prepared to sit down with you, or anybody else, and try to map out really constructive research into the thing. I don’t believe that your approach, if I may say so, is either constructive or realistic’, and the interview ended in a clash between him and Platt on tobacco advertising, Partridge defending advertising: ‘to young people?’ – ‘Yes indeed . . . but not to children’ – ‘to young ladies?’ – ‘Certainly, when they reach the age of discretion’ – and finding himself in difficulty saying why he did not want children to smoke ‘if there’s nothing harmful about smoking’.
The number of papers on the files now proliferates many times over as the subject of smoking and health was placed firmly on the agenda of many Whitehall departments for months to come. This was the work of the interdepartmental committee of officials created by the Home Affairs Committee before the report was published. Through it departments attempted to pursue largely defensive interests but were driven from above by a Cabinet minister who, contrary to all past precedent, showed real interest in getting results.
This interdepartmental committee had been reinforced by the Cabinet which, at its own pre-publication discussion, it ‘took note that the Prime Minister would arrange for the Departments concerned to carry out a detailed study of the further measures recommended in the Report’. Harold Macmillan wrote on 15 March to Lord Hailsham, the Lord President of the Council, asking him to preside over a ‘group of Ministers’ to oversee this study. He continued: ‘I have asked Sir Norman Brook [the Cabinet secretary] to arrange for a more searching enquiry to be made by officials into the administrative and legal aspects of the recommendations’ and suggested that the Ministerial group should not meet until their report was forthcoming. ‘But you may like to discuss with Sir Norman Brook the precise field which you would wish the report by officials to cover and the way in which you would like the work handled.’
Hailsham reacted with enthusiasm. His copy of Macmillan’s memorandum (written from Admiralty House while no 10 Downing Street was being renovated) bears in his elegant italic hand this note to his office:
Obviously I must do this. I shall want to interview the secret of the orgñ as soon as poss. I sh want copies of the report on both desks and for home. I shall want to draft a series of questions for the Committee. Pse bring me existing Cab Papers to work on th weekend. I take it the fact of this Cee will not be public.
The secretary of the officials’ committee was A L M Cary from the Cabinet Office. Hailsham saw him within a few days, and what he said can be surmised from two (similar) manuscript lists on the Lord President’s file. The second reads:
Further scope for research:
How to keep facts before public
The young. Schools. Local Health Auths.
Sales. Age 16 too young? ?Power to move slot machines enforced?
?Persuasion ?Filters ?Cigars ?Pipes
?Tax or Levy
Doctors Life Insurance Cos?
Clinics Churches? Voluntary Societies?
Cary’s committee comprised representatives of the Home Office, Scottish Office, Board of Trade, Treasury, Central Office of Information and Ministries of Health and Education. He circulated a paper to them proposing that they produce a factual report, without recommendations (which were the realm of the Ministerial committee) and sketched its scope: education of children and adults; restriction of advertising (‘It has already been suggested that a Government publicity campaign would be ineffective (and I would personally add undignified) unless it is linked with some restriction on advertising by the tobacco companies. This is a subject which bristles with difficulties’); restrictions on smoking in public places and on sales to the young; taxation (including the effect of ‘a sudden and sharp reduction in our imports of tobacco from the Colonies, the Commonwealth, or the United States’); smoke analysis, filtration and labelling of packets; and anti-smoking clinics.
Hailsham reacted immediately, and the committee’s second paper relayed his comments on Cary’s agenda. The Committee should consider under public education not only what schools and local health authorities could do but also the role of ‘churches, youth clubs and services, social workers, doctors and insurance companies’. Questions on advertising should include whether restrictions should be imposed by regulation or by persuasion? what distinctions should be made between media? whether there should be a tax on advertising? whether to urge the companies to switch their advertising towards pipes, cigars, filter tips – or to distinguish in any controls imposed between these different kinds of smoking? On under-age sales, the committee should consider the penalties, the case for wider powers, whether 16 was the right age, stronger powers over slot machines, more vigorous enforcement. They should end with a note of the situation in other countries, and a ‘compendious statement’ of existing laws.
The committee worked hard, with papers presented on topics as various as whether the licensing powers for cinemas could be adapted to require bans on smoking (they could not), whether vending machines should be banned (perhaps), whether smoking by customers in food shops should be banned (no: the reason for the existing ban on smoking by employees was the risk of transferring germs from the mouth to the hands and had nothing to do with the smoke or ash); and whether the minimum age for sale of tobacco should be raised to 18 (no point) or the fines for breach of the law increased (ineffective ‘when detection is so uncertain’). The law restricting the sale of alcohol worked better partly because a licence was required and ‘it would be possible to subject the sale of tobacco to a similar system of justices’ licences, with consequent restrictions on the places at which and/or the hours during which it was sold; but that would be using a sledgehammer – and without any certainty of cracking the nut.’
The insurance industry was asked about differential premiums and replied that ‘actuarially the risks are not really significant and do not warrant special treatment.’ Besides, how could the companies monitor their policy-holders’ non-smoking? Nor would the life assurance companies wish to publicise smoking risks among their clients, since ‘these risks appear to be no greater than, if as great as, risks from many other practices, e.g., drinking, or eating fatty foods . . . ‘ and publicity could be counterproductive if it led to a demand for lower premiums and the companies had to reveal that smoking was not actuarially significant.
The committee had a meeting on 17 April with industry representatives who produced a draft circular to retailers urging vigilance against under-age sales but rejected action against vending machines. They argued against any further restriction on television advertising (‘cigarette advertising was not especially directed to young persons: the ‘romantic theme’ had a strong appeal for the middle-aged and elderly’) and urged the need for further research.
The Scottish Office again proposed a major public education campaign with a national steering committee comprising (among others) representatives of the BMA, the TUC and the Federation of British Industry, the church, youth and education and a budget of £1 million. The Central Office of Information proposed by contrast a £25,000 campaign using free rather than paid-for media, offering as reasons that otherwise ‘the Government would be fighting a vast commercial interest on the least favourable ground’ and that it was ‘unwise to set a pace faster than can with certainty be maintained over a period of three years’ while ‘under the shadow of a threat of Government action or opposition, the cigarette manufacturers themselves may decide to modify their advertising approach – in particular its association with youth and romance . . .’ Meantime, the Ministry of Health produced half a dozen posters to offer to local authorities providing, in accordance with Cabinet policy, facts rather than ‘active discouragement’.
Behind the work of the interdepartmental committee lay the largely defensive and often extraordinarily amateurish preparations in individual departments. In the Board of Trade the Undersecretary G J MacMahon defined his department’s interests as avoidance of ‘unnecessary damage’ to the industry; concern for tobacco-growing countries, especially in the Commonwealth, and concern for protection of the public as consumers of tobacco. Selby-Boothroyd prepared a brief for MacMahon, picking up a discarded theory mentioned in the College report and elaborating it at length. Theorising as an ‘informed layman’ about people being divided into those (‘soft-shells’) vulnerable to lung cancer and ‘ “biologically self-protective” hard-shells’, he ended four densely argued pages with the startling conclusion:
The most the R.C.P. have shown is that cigarette smoking may be the cause of lung cancer, and that quite a lot of other things may equally be dangerous. It hardly seems sure enough ground on which to build a political platform.
His boss Miss K E Boyes, the Assistant Secretary, also found the report ‘disappointing regarded as a scientific enquiry. Doctors,’ she said, ‘are by habit and training inclined to the pontifical in expressing their views’ and had failed to learn that ‘the conventional wisdom of the profession’ had often proved wrong in the past. However, ‘the Minister of Health has clearly swallowed the Report hook, line and sinker’.
A week later (22 March) she attended a briefing meeting for Lord Hailsham, who was to answer another debate in the House of Lords. She reported:
It was clear that Lord Hailsham holds very strong personal views on the subject to which he intends to give free rein. In particular he is extremely critical of the tobacco companies for their replies to the R.C.P. Report; he says that these are deliberately dishonest and wicked from start to finish and that their authors are selling their fellow men for thirty pieces of silver.
Departmental representatives had been unhappy with his strong line and had tried in vain to moderate it, until, she wrote, she herself intervened to
suggest that it might be found very useful at a later stage to have the co-operation of the industry in certain ways and that this would be more easily achieved if they had not been too heavily blackguarded first, and I think he may have taken this point.
According to her, Hailsham was dubious about controls on advertising but keen on promoting filter-tips, cigars and pipes despite doubts by ‘Ministry of Health scientists’ about the evidence on these supposedly safer forms of smoking.
The previous day she had been at a private Board of Trade meeting with Partridge and Todd, who clearly felt themselves amongst friends. They had developed the line set out in the industry’s original statement by deploring the risk that a public education campaign could ‘set up a powerful reaction by spreading nervous tension, especially between children and their (smoking) parents. “Create a cancer-phobia and you don’t know what you’re doing” ‘ – but the press and public might turn against the Government for it. As to controls on the themes used in advertising, a minority in the House of Commons were ‘stirring up the latent Puritanism lingering in this country’. Clearly wearing his company rather than his industry hat, Partridge took a sideswipe at Gallaher for their ‘objectionable’ promotion by coupons of their Kensitas brand and at Carreras for their promotion of filter-tips, which might be no safer than untipped cigarettes: Imperial had no coupon-promoted brand and only a toe-hold in the filter-tip market.
The Carreras group (which evolved into Rothmans and is now part of BAT) moved quickly to exploit this advantage. On 5 April its chairman, R W S Plumley, wrote to the President of the Board of Trade, Frederick Erroll, with a copy of a carefully crafted public statement from his company on smoking and health. Declining as tobacco manufacturers to take issue with the Royal College of Physicians’ report (‘which is based mainly upon the collection and collation of statistical data’) it called for the subject to be ‘kept in perspective and considered positively and constructively. . . Over indulgence in any pleasure could always be harmful: moderation in all things is a good maxim.’
The statement then developed a theme of safer smoking. The Government, which received £800 million in tax each year, should cooperate with the industry in a major research project. The College report had mentioned the possibility of filters reducing the harmful effects of smoking, and Carreras would be concentrating even more fully on these in future. Longer stub lengths were possibly safer – but high tax told against discarding unsmoked tobacco, although again filters would help. As to children, Carreras would be removing all its vending machines from streets and public places and confining its television advertising to hours when children were least likely to be viewing.
Carreras, as the Financial Times reported, had not consulted the TMSC before making its own statement. Its démarche forced an ‘emergency meeting’ of Imperial, Gallaher and three smaller companies, after which they announced that they too would limit television advertising to after 9.00 p.m. Carreras followed up this coup with persistent lobbying over many months of the Lord President, the Minister of Health and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pressing the virtues of its filter technology and seeking Government collaboration with the industry on research.
The Board of Trade now clashed with the Ministry of Health over responsibility for any putative controls on tobacco advertising. Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner, Conservative MP for Barkston Ash, had put down a Parliamentary Question on the subject for the Home Office. Health, Trade and the Home Office were all clear it was not a Home Office responsibility, but in the end Butler had to answer the question as both Health and Trade vigorously asserted it was the responsibility of the other. Butler wrote to Erroll on 29 March with a copy to Powell asking them to settle the matter, and eventually on 27 April Sir Bruce Fraser advised Powell ‘I am disposed to modify my previous view that the Board of Trade’s attitude was wholly unreasonable.’
In the Ministry of Health the Public Relations Division paid close attention to a junior official’s report of the views of a single (if intelligent) schoolgirl, and the Division formed an Advisory Group on Publicity comprising headteachers and officers from local health and education authorities as well as Whitehall representatives. On 21 March, local health authorities were invited to put in orders for the first three Ministry posters – eight were being prepared, along with a leaflet, a one-reel film and a filmstrip. These conformed with Cabinet policy in offering facts rather than ‘active discouragement’. Enoch Powell received a list of this material bearing the manuscript annotation: ‘The ‘skull’ poster isn’t mentioned’. He wrote on it: ‘I agree. I think there should be an early H (horror) series e.g., the skull, the skeleton hand with the match, the two diseased lungs etc.’
A letter from Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth, Conservative MP for Hendon South, asking whether there was any danger to ‘those who are subjected to the smoke of others in confined spaces’ was referred for advice to Dr Charles Fletcher, the secretary of the College’s committee, who replied that the matter of other people’s smoke was not dealt with in the report because of ‘the impossibility of obtaining valid epidemiological evidence’. He suggested, however, that asthma might result from such exposure, and a reply to this effect was in due course sent.
Elsewhere in Whitehall, the Central Office of Information commissioned a consultant to advise on publicity (the key point in his report was that ‘A clarification of what the Government wishes to accomplish immediately and in the long-term must precede the preparation of a detailed publicity plan’ but the emphasis of his proposals was on ‘safer’ smoking); the Admiralty prepared a report on stopping the sale of tax-free cigarettes to servicemen and a Royal Army Medical Corps survey found that young soldiers had started smoking on average at age 16.
The General Post Office became involved on several fronts. They sought advice on a postal franking slogan referred to them as potentially controversial by the plate maker from which it had been ordered by Basildon Urban District Council: ‘Cancer! Protect your Health – Increase your Wealth – Stop Smoking’. Mrs O’Brien at the Ministry of Health advised her boss: ‘While we can steer a course between making the facts known and active discouragement this is not a distinction which officials would care to have to expound to a local authority’ and suggested that no objection be raised.
The GPO was unreceptive to anti-smoking advertising in post offices: their public relations department wrote to Heald:
Our position is that we do not display advertisements on matters which can be taken to be controversial . . . I should add of course that we are refusing to accept anti-smoking slogans in other advertising space but the posters you could wish to display would presumably be put up on the noticeboards reserved for other Government departments.
The GPO was also concerned about television advertising, which became a focus of increasing attention over the next two years. Miss Mervyn Pike, Assistant Postmaster-General, told the Commons on 13 March that the matter was being looked at ‘with the greatest urgency’ and the GPO had indeed by then sought advice from the Board of Trade, saying that they currently took the view that it was ‘inappropriate to prohibit or control advertisements for tobacco and cigarettes on television alone, while leaving other forms of advertising completely free’. Already by agreement between the Independent Television Authority and the television companies no tobacco advertisements were shown during or around children’s programmes, and following a statement in the Commons in January by the Postmaster General the ITA was implementing a ban on such advertisements between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (This was before the industry volunteered its 9.00 p.m. threshold.) Under the Television Act the ITA had a duty to comply with the recommendations of its Advertising Advisory Committee, on which Ministry of Health was represented, but the Committee was unlikely to ban or restrict tobacco advertising without guidance or direction from the Government. With the Pilkington Committee on broadcasting policy about to report, the PMG thought it impolitic to exercise the powers under the Act which would allow him to ban tobacco advertising (but did not allow him to limit the hours in which it appeared); he could, however, probably ‘prohibit the ‘romantic’ type of advertising cigarettes which might be considered a special inducement to young people’. The Board of Trade reacted negatively to the idea of further controls, noting that consumption had not risen in line with increased advertising expenditure, that the press and the advertising profession would oppose a ban and that the tobacco industry would protest if drink advertising was not similarly penalised.
1. Personal communication, 19 January 1998: Sir George comments: ‘Enoch Powell was a strong Minister with whom I had good report but I could not persuade him to ban cigarette advertising for the same reason as Virginia Bottomley gave later: “commercial freedom of speech”.’ [back]
2. PRO file MH 55.2227 [back]
3. PRO files MH 55.2204, BT 258.200. The Board of Trade file has a cutting from the Financial Times (8 December 1961) pointing out that only foreign manufacturers would be affected by the ban ‘since under pressure from the anti-smoke (sic) faction in Parliament, the Italian State tobacco monopoly has in recent years been forced to refrain from advertising its products’. The ban, which passed its final stages on April 5, was in the event virtually unenforced, the fines for its breach being negligible. [back]
4. BMJ 1961; ii: 1625, 16 December 1961. The Swedish precedent was a weak one: according to a Ministry of Health paper (GEN 763/6, 30 March 1962) based on information from the Royal College of Physicians, ‘in 1956 there was a temporary stop to advertising by the Swedish tobacco monopoly’ – PRO file CAB 130.185. [back]
5. PRO file MH 55.2226 [back]
6. PRO file BT 258.200 [back]
7. PRO file T 171.593. See also chapter 5, note 2. [back]
8. PRO file MH 55.2204 [back]
9. Paper HA(62)21 – PRO file CAB 134:1990. The paper – and the subsequent Cabinet paper – quoted the Report’s conclusions at length and set out in full the recommendations for Government action:
‘(i) more education of the public and especially schoolchildren concerning the hazards of smoking;
‘(ii) more effective restrictions on the sale of tobacco to children;
‘(iii) restriction of tobacco advertising;
‘(iv) wider restriction of smoking in public places;
‘(v) an increase of tax on cigarettes, perhaps with adjustment of the tax on pipe and cigar tobaccos;
‘(vi) informing purchasers of the tar and nicotine content of the smoke of cigarettes;
‘(vii) investigating the value of anti-smoking clinics to help those who find difficulty in giving up smoking.’ [back]
10. Paper C(62)43 – PRO file CAB 129:108. [back]
11. Cabinet minutes CC.19(62) item 4 and CC.20(62) item 2. The circulars were issued on 12 March. Circular 6/62 from the Ministry of Health said ‘health education should increasingly emphasise the hazards of smoking’ and called on health authorities to ‘bring home to the public the dangers . . . of smoking’, promising free publicity material. Circular 3/62 from the Ministry of Education called for a ‘fresh and positive effort . . . to discourage smoking among children’ and expressed the hope that staff would not smoke ‘anywhere in school in front of children.’ – PRO files MH 55.2204 and MH 55.2233. [back]
12. PRO files MH 55.2227, MH 55.2237 [back]
13. Minute, 1 March 1962, by Miss K E Boyes, Assistant Secretary, Industries and Manufactures Department, who made the point that she was a non-smoker – PRO file BT 258.200. [back]
14. An assessment of Todd’s paper was made for the Chief Medical Officer by his medical staff. Their conclusion was that ‘a very clever defence is made for the Tobacco Manufacturers. There is no denial of the almost certain relationship between smoking and cancer of the lung although all possible is done to confuse the issue.’ In their detailed analysis they said, à propos air pollution: ‘Here, Mr Todd makes points which range from good ones to others which are verging on the dishonest.’ They agreed that much of the research he recommended was worth undertaking – PRO file MH 55.2232. [back]
15. PRO file MH 55.2233 [back]
16. PRO file MH 55.2204 [back]
17. PRO file MH 55.2234 [back]
18. Robinson three years later as Minister of Health carried the ban on television cigarette advertising through Cabinet. [back]
19. PRO file MH 154.182 [back]
20. PRO file MH 55.2204 [back]
21. PRO files BT 258.200, BT 258.201 [back]
22. PRO file CAB 124.1673 [back]
23. Its official title was GEN 763 and all its papers and minutes are to be found on PRO file CAB 130.185. [back]
24. MacMahon was the Board of Trade representative on the interdepartmental committee – PRO file BT 258.1405. Another undersecretary, G Bowen, wrote later in the month ‘our responsibility is to see that the views of the industry are properly considered and taken account of; it is not however necessary for us to endorse them’ – PRO file BT 258.201. [back]
25. PRO file BT 258.200 [back]
26. The full story is perhaps worth telling. The Carreras Managing Director, R W S Plumley, sent Hailsham a copy of his company’s statement. Hailsham replied:
I am glad that, like me, you feel unable to challenge the Report of the Royal College of Physicians and that at least some of the suggestions I made in my speech [i.e., in House of Lords, 22 March 1962] seem to be acceptable to you. For your information, however, the Government does not earmark money for particular projects of medical research. This is the function of the Medical Research Council who make their decisions on the scientific merits of the particular projects submitted to them. This usually depends on the extent to which particular leads appear promising and the availability of manpower of suitable quality. Lung cancer is a sufficiently serious disease to make research into it which satisfies these criteria justifiable independently of the revenue derived from cigarette smoking. This is not intrinsically – although the prevalence of cigarette smoking to which it is related probably is – a matter the Medical Research Council would be likely to consider relevant.
Plumley replied reiterating that Parliament and the public wished to be reassured that ‘no effort will be spared to find out what, if any, are the harmful elements in cigarette smoke’ and to remove them:
It is for this reason that we stated our belief that the industry and the Government should co-operate in a major research project and that the Government may feel it has an obligation to increase the amount of grants towards such research.
Hailsham’s private secretary replied that Hailsham did not dispute the need for research, but ‘the statistical evidence which had been deployed was so strong that it could not be ignored whilst further research was proceeding’ and that no promising proposals for research had been rejected for lack of funds.
Plumley then requested a meeting with Hailsham. The Board of Trade briefed his office that while it was quite appropriate for Hailsham as Minister of Science to see representatives of the industry to discuss research, Carreras had only about 5% of the market and were members of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Standing Committee: ‘Mr Plumley has the reputation of wanting to draw attention to himself and could not be regarded as representative of the industry.’ Hailsham, asked by his office if they should arrange a meeting, replied: ‘Yes, but give me some nasty things to say to him and in particular let me have copies of some Carreras advertisements of cigarettes.’
So briefed, he met Plumley on 15 June. Plumley tried to make a case for joint research; Hailsham politely but firmly rebuffed him: ‘He reaffirmed that research into cancer was not held up by shortage of funds. If good men came forward with promising ideas for research their proposals would be considered very sympathetically. Money spent on research by first class men was rarely wasted even if the particular line of research did not in the end turn out to be fruitful; on the other hand money spent on second rate men with second rate ideas, would be a waste. The Lord President doubted whether a formal joint council between Government and industry was the right way of securing co-ordination in research’ and suggested that Plumley keep in touch with the Medical Research Council. Plumley wrote thanking Hailsham for the meeting: ‘It was also very kind of you to say that I may call upon you again in connection with this subject when I may have anything further to add to my remarks and I shall have great pleasure in so doing.’
Meantime, he had already asked for a meeting with Enoch Powell: ‘You may remember we last met at a luncheon given by N M Rothschild and Sons, New Court. . . I should very much like an opportunity of a discussion with you at a time and date that may be convenient to you. I believe that such a discussion could be useful as we are naturally concerned with the further examination of the matter and research development.’ The Ministry, aware of the impending meeting with Hailsham, replied asking what points Plumley wished to make. Plumley replied in somewhat general terms but indicating that the key issue was filter cigarettes. At this point MacMahon from the Board of Trade reported a meeting a week earlier with Plumley’s Assistant Managing Director, C A C Bulpitt, at which he had talked excitedly about American research suggesting that the harmful element in cigarette smoke was ‘a phenolic compound’ and claiming that Carreras’ filters would be able to remove 85% of the phenols from tobacco smoke. Bulpitt had already discussed the theory – based on research (MacMahon had found out by the next day) by Dr E L Wynder – with Sir Robert Platt, the President of the Royal College of Physicians, and Charles Fletcher. Powell’s office then declined the suggestion of a meeting on the grounds that the point on joint research had been covered by Hailsham and that on other points ‘the Minister has no views beyond those in the Report of the Royal College, which he accepts.’
Plumley tried again in October: he wrote to Hailsham seeking ‘a few moments’ with him. It was discovered that Plumley had made no approach to the Medical Research Council, despite agreeing to do so after his first meeting with Hailsham, but then it was revealed that the point of concern now was brand promotion by gift coupons, a point of contention between the companies.
Then on 17 October Plumley, accompanied by one Michael Rice, had a meeting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald Maudling. Miss Boyes of the Board of Trade prepared a brief, leaving a comment on her own file: ‘It was not clear to me why the Chancellor should be having a general discussion about the tobacco industry but it appears that Mr Michael Rice is a personal friend of the Chancellor and has obtained the entrée for Mr Plumley as he did on one or two occasions when Mr Maudling was at the Board of Trade . . .’
Maudling wrote his own note of his meeting:
They were interested in two points – the effect of the Common Market on tobacco duty, and the re-emergence of gift coupons and cigarette cards.
On the first point, I told them that my impression was that nothing in the Treaty of Rome forced us to revise our method of charging tobacco duty . . .
On the second point, I explained that . . . the Government were unlikely to take any action. He made the point that at the Government’s request the tobacco companies were not appealing to young people in their advertising. Would it not be inconsistent with this if, for example, a company came out with a line of cigarette cards designed to have such an appeal? I said I would mention this to Lord Hailsham, who I gather had conducted the talks with the industry, but I did not undertake to do anything further.
Hailsham then wrote to Plumley declining a further meeting in view of the meetings already held with him, adding:XXXX You will be interested, and I hope amused, to learn that someone in your organisation sent me a small box of your filter tipped Piccadilly and asked me to try them. This was indeed bearding the lion in his den, but it was as ineffectual as the devil’s attempt on St Anthony.
– PRO files CAB 124.1674, MH 55.2234, BT 258.201.
Carreras continued to press their advantage in filter-tips: in January 1964, Plumley wrote at length to Reginald Maudling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, enclosing a copy of a very mildly encouraging letter the US Surgeon-General, Luther Terry, had sent to a US Senator. Maudling passed copies to the Minister of Health (by then Anthony Barber) and others and sent a bland acknowledgement – PRO file BT 258.202. [back]
27. The members of the Group met on 4 April and many subsequently submitted personal memoranda. A summary was prepared for the interdepartmental working party. On 10 April the Secretary of the Association of Municipal Corporations wrote objecting to that the Ministry had approached ‘people in the employment of local authorities’ without going through the Association which represented them – PRO files MH 55.2204, MH 55.2237. [back]
28. Paper GEN 763/5, PRO files CAB 130.185, MH 55.2233. The Central Council for Health Education was preparing other material. A headline in the Sunday Times on 8 April said: ‘Campaign Against Smoking Too Feeble Say Councils’ – the cutting is on a Board of Trade file, BT 258.201. On 17 May Dame Enid Russell-Smith minuted Sir Bruce Fraser with news of a private initiative in anti-smoking publicity:
On a lighter note, the Minister will have noticed the anti-smoking posters which have been carried up and down Regent Street on sandwich boards every evening for the past fortnight by a group of young people. When stopping to look at the posters I have twice been asked if I wanted help and have been given literature. This directed attention to two anti-smoking films being shown at the New Gallery where a Harley Street medical man would be in attendance to give help to those who needed it. I was a little startled to find that the organisation behind this activity was the Seventh Day Adventists but am sorry I have not found time to see the films* or consult the Harley Street specialist.
* Mr Heald thought them quite good.
– PRO file MH 55.2234. The Seventh Day Adventists have remained significant anti-smoking campaigners to this day, although not in the United Kingdom. [back]
29. Ministry Medical Officers exchanged views on the file at the end of May about the effects of passive smoking, agreeing (in the words of Dr A Cruickshank) that ‘Whilst we do not know that inhalation of other people’s smoke is a physical risk to healthy people we cannot say definitely that it does not constitute one, and it may be the factor which sets off an adolescent on his smoking career or in causing someone who has recently stopped to restart.’ PRO file MH 55.2234.[back]
30. The Role of Publicity in the Smoking and Health Campaign, by Anthony Hyde of Armstrong Warden Ltd, April 1962 – PRO file MH 55.2237. [back]
31. This was not the end of problems with franking slogans. When the officials’ report was being considered by Lord Hailsham’s Ministerial Committee the Assistant Postmaster-General, Miss Mervyn Pike, without notice explained her worries and got an agreement that ‘the Post Office would continue to resist, as far as was practicable, requests from public health authorities for permission to frank letters with anti-smoking slogans’ because such slogans were ‘controversial and not permissible under the Post Office’s normal practice’. The Ministry of Health, ambushed, persuaded the Committee at its next meeting to require the Post Office to consult them. However, even the Ministry of Health were equivocal about the Basildon slogan: ‘there remains the point whether the word “stop” in the slogan is good psychology’ but the Ministry was leaving local authorities to do the publicity and – suggested J P Dodds – should not interfere. The Public Relations head S A Heald disagreed: ‘While agreeing with Mr Dodds that it is difficult to read a lesson to a local authority on publicity techniques, I do feel that they should be persuaded not to use the “stop smoking” line. (The G.P.O. incidentally mentioned that there was a tobacco firm in the district.) Could we not say (without too much risk of being misunderstood) that at the present stage of the campaign we are concerned with persuasion leading to conviction borne of an appreciation of the facts and that the exhortation to “stop smoking” should be reserved for a later stage? Used at the present juncture it is felt that it might invoke “resistance” and, therefore, prejudice the main lines on which the long-term campaign is at present being developed.’ Dodds noted on his copy: ‘I gather the Dep. Secretary is agreeing to Mr Heald trying to convert Basildon’ but the outcome is not revealed on the file – PRO file MH 55.2234. See also below on page 125. [back]
32. PRO file MH 55.2204 [back]
33. PRO file BT 258:1405 [back]