Tory cigarette packaging rebel Priti Patel is ex-tobacco lobbyist
A Conservative MP who is leading a rebellion against plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes is a former tobacco lobbyist and chairs a parliamentary group whose secretariat is provided by two tobacco industry-funded organizations.
Priti Patel, a member of David Cameron's influential policy advisory board and chair of the all-party parliamentary small shops group, argues that plain packs will be the "final nail in the coffin" of hundreds of newsagents.
She has repeatedly spoken out against the measure – which health campaigners hope will come into force before the general election – and written articles saying that it will encourage trade in counterfeit cigarettes.
Patel was for several years a lobbyist working for British American Tobacco, in a team that sought to derail government plans for an advertising ban and responded to a Department of Trade and Industry investigation into alleged cigarette smuggling.
Internal company documents obtained by the Observer show that in 2001, while working for lobbyist Weber Shandwick, Patel billed for 126 hours of work a month at £165 an hour on the BAT contract. One Weber Shandwick memo explains that Patel will "provide strategic advice on the account, with a particular focus on the Conservative party".