Public health measures derailed by business, claims BMJ report

16 May 2019, Katie Coyne

A smouldering cigarette

Attacks on public health initiatives such as alcohol controls, sugar tax and obesity measures are being funded through the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) by businesses with vested interests in seeing them fail.

This is according to an investigation published by the British Medical Journal.

The report has concluded that the biggest threat to public health currently lies in the selection of a new Conservative party leader with ties to the IEA.

It finds that the IEA has a longstanding commitment to dismissing public health initiatives as 'nanny state' interventions and while it is secretive about its funding, is at least part funded by British American Tobacco.

The BMJ investigation added that in the past the IEA has also taken money from the gambling, alcohol, sugar and soft drink industries.

The report argued: “Politicians with links to the IEA seem to be progressing ever closer to power.

“The concern is that public health policies could be put at risk under a new Tory leadership, including current plans for calorie labelling and for advertising restrictions designed to tackle childhood obesity, as well as progress towards a minimum unit price for alcohol.”

Attacks on public health schemes by the IEA outlined in the investigation included: attacking the childhood obesity strategy; labelling 'sin taxes' on alcohol or tobacco as regressive; and ridiculing the link between fast food outlets and obesity.

The investigation has uncovered that in the past year the IEA has issued more than a dozen statements criticising a range of initiatives from alcohol controls to sugar taxes as 'pointless', 'absurd' and 'draconian'.

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