The government is under fire from politicians on all sides amid fears that legislation forcing tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packs will not be introduced before the general election.
MPs from all three main parties, including the Tory chair of the health select committee, have warned time is running out to introduce a law that would see cigarettes sold in unbranded packs, a measure experts claim would deter young people from smoking.
A delay would be a major victory for “big tobacco” and trigger questions for the Tories’ chief election strategist, Lynton Crosby, who runs a lobbying firm that represents Marlboro manufacturer Philip Morris.
Crosby denies influencing tobacco policy. He came under scrutiny last year after advising David Cameron to “get the barnacles off the boat”, urging the prime minister to focus on core issues that resonated with voters and jettison others that do little for the Tories’ electoral chances. Some Conservatives fear being seen as anti-smoking would play into the hands of UKIP and have urged the government to delay the plain packs.
I really can’t think of a better example of special interest lobbying than Big Tobacco’s campaign to stop this legislation.