The government published in March its Tobacco Control Plan for England, in which it confirmed plans to go ahead with a display ban, investigate the possibility of putting products in plain packaging and continue to encourage smokers to quit by maintaining the high price of tobacco products through taxation. Alongside the plan it also published a report on the impact of smoke-free legislation since 2007, carried out by the University of Bath's Professor Linda Bauld, a member of the advisory board for anti-smoking lobby group ASH.
"Professor Bauld's clear vested interests and links to government-funded anti-tobacco lobby groups call into question the neutrality of the review," Imperial claimed.
"Along with many others directly affected by the legislation, Imperial expected that such a review would be founded on substantive and broad-based evidence, ideally obtained from a number of different sources," said Imperial's senior UK corporate & legal affairs manager Colin Wragg. "Instead we find the review to be narrow and selective, ignoring much of the evidence base and failing to acknowledge anything that does not support her position."
The manufacturer said it had strong evidence to refute Bauld's conclusion that there had been no clear adverse impact on the hospitality industry from the smoking ban.
"This raises questions about the process of evidence building, especially the way it can be selectively gathered to support a pre-determined government position," added Wragg.
Imperial is calling on parliament's Regulatory Policy Committee to investigate the government's evidence review process and is submitting what it is calling a "comprehensive critique" of the report, in which it will be presenting "a number of different pieces of evidence from sources in the public domain that Professor Bauld chose not to consider".