Cancer Research: Lobbying Your Donations

The latest proposal to come trotting out from the anti-smoking movement is plan packaging. The idea is simple, and to paraphrase: Bright packages lure children and non-smokers to take up smoking because the packages are just too alluring and the last form of advertising, if all packages are plain there will be no temptation to start smoking.

Yes, it’s absurd logic – people smoke for the cigarettes, not the packets. And if you take a look at your local tobacco counter, you’ll see many packages are white with just the logo (Silk Cut, Marlboro Light, Winston and so on) and rolling tobacco comes in largely drab packets. This post isn’t about why plain packaging won’t stop people starting smoking though (I’ve written on that elsewhere), but is to call attention to the fact that Cancer Research UK is lobbying for this measure to pass through and become law.

The website states:

Plain packaging means removing all branding from cigarette packs. This means that all packs, from all tobacco brands, will look the same. This won’t stop everyone from smoking, but it will give millions of kids one less reason to start.

It’ll only happen with your support. Act now while the Government is listening by  entering your details on the right.

The purpose of a charity is not lobbying. People give money to Cancer Research because they take the ‘research’ literally and believe that is what their donations will be going towards. People certainly aren’t giving their money away to fund lifestyle lobbying, yet the organisation is keen to let us know that it has been a key player in all sorts of lifestyle policies over the years. Cancer Research doesn’t hide the fact that it lobbies government though:

Influencing public policy is one of the charity’s core aims and our work ensures that the charity’s research, early detection initiatives and other vital work can be carried out effectively, by helping to create a supportive political environment.

The charity also has its own subsidiary called Tobacco Advisory Group (TAG), which

The Cancer Research UK Tobacco Advisory Group (TAG) is a funding and policy-setting committee focussing on several key priority tobacco policy areas. [Emphasis added]

The committee currently funds two main areas of national tobacco work – policy research and policy campaigning/advocacy activities.

A small amount of support is given to health promotion research and interventions. [Emphasis added]

It’s brazen of a charity to be overtly lobbying government, and to use the money generously donated by the public in response to the terrifying cancer adverts shown on television, to fund policy-driven studies and lobby for new policies and restrictions on legal products. It’s safe to say most people would expect Cancer Research UK to be using that money on actively researching the disease and how to combat it – because certainly smoking is not the one and only single factor to the onset of cancer.

Perhaps it’s time this charity either did what it was supposed to do, or rebrand itself as a political lobbying group, or tell the public quite openly in its adverts what it will be spending the money on and see how many people keep on donating.