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Investigation reveals MPs’ links to organisation backed by tobacco industry

No fewer than 25 serving Conservative MPs, including several leadership candidates, are connected to an organisation part-funded by the tobacco industry and responsible for a series of attacks on public health initiatives.

This is the conclusion of an investigation by The BMJ which finds MPs linked to the think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). The MPs include Dominic Raab, David Davis and Owen Paterson.

Between them, Neil Record, chair of the IEA’s board of trustees since 2015, and fellow IEA trustee since July 2005, Sir Michael Hintze, have given a total of £166,000 in cash or hospitality to 30 MPs and £4.3 million to the Conservative Party since 2002.

Between 2010 and 2017, prior to his appointment as health secretary, Matt Hancock accepted £32,000 in funding from Neil Record.

Public health experts say they are “deeply concerned” that policies designed to tackle childhood obesity, such as calorie labelling and advertising restrictions on unhealthy foods, could be put at risk under a new Tory leadership wedded to the IEA’s free-market, anti-regulation ideology.

The IEA has a long record of dismissing public health initiatives as “nanny-state” interventions. In the past year alone, it has issued statements criticising everything from alcohol controls to sugar taxes as “pointless,” “absurd” and “draconian.”

The IEA keeps its funding sources private, as it is legally allowed to do, but the investigation reveals that it is part-funded by British American Tobacco. In the past, it has also taken money from the gambling, alcohol, soft drinks and sugar industries.

Professor Nick Sheron, head of the Population Hepatology Research Group at Southampton University, said: “The consequences of a future leader aligning against health and in favour of the tobacco, alcohol and obesity industries are deeply concerning.

“The cost will be premature mortality and the utter despair this causes families, higher workloads for the NHS, and reduced productivity for the economy.”

Read the full report.

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