This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
Roger Scruton is a British conservative philosopher well known for publishing articles critical of tobacco control efforts in major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the London Financial Times.  Typical was an article he authored in the February 9, 1998 issue of the Wall Street Journal entitled "Anything Goes--Except Smoking," in which he portrayed government efforts to decrease smoking as a waste of time. Scruton dismissed such efforts as part of the "hysteria of modern life." A biographical line at the end of the article described Scruton only as "a philosopher living in England," without disclosing that he was being paid by Japan Tobacco, Inc. (affiliated with the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company) to place pro-tobacco opinion pieces in major newspapers.
In 2002 Scruton authored a 60-page pamphlet attacking the World Health Organization (WHO) entitled WHO, WHAT and WHY: Transnational Government, Legitimacy and the World Health Organization, published by The Institute of Economic Affairs in London, a free-market think tank. In the pamphlet, Scruton belittled the WHO's tobacco control efforts and portrayed WHO as trying to "impose the social and political agenda of a handful of activists" upon the rest of the world. Advancing arguments the tobacco industry and its allies had made for years, Scruton said WHO should be concentrating on vaccination campaigns and controlling communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria rather than being concerned about smoking. The description of Scruton at the beginning of the pamphlet said only that he was a British philosopher who had held professorships in London and Boston, and a freelance writer who had published several books.
In 2002 the newspaper U.K. Guardian obtained an email that revealed Scruton had been receiving monthly payments from Japan Tobacco, Inc. (JTI) to write and place articles critical of tobacco control efforts in major newspapers, and to write the pamphlet criticizing the WHO's tobacco control campaigns. Scruton sent the email to JTI under the name of his wife and business partner, Sophie. In it, Scruton offered to use his media contacts to "place [a pro-tobacco article] article every two months in one or the other of the WSJ [Wall Street Journal], the Times, the Telegraph, the Spectator, the Financial Times, the Economist, the Independent, or the New Statesman." The email also stated that "while one or more of these articles might be written by RS, we would do our best to get other journalists to join in." The Guardian revealed that Scruton had been receiving £4,400 (US$6,300) a month from JTI Tobacco and that he had asked the company for a pay increase of £1,000/month to continue placing pro-smoking articles in prestigious magazines and international newspapers. In the email, Scruton suggested to JTI further strategies he could use to criticize the WHO:
I personally would like to see more explicit mention of other products open to the same criticisms as tobacco and which ought to be of equal concern to the WHO. For example, fast-food of the McDonald's variety, which seems to be addictive, is aimed at the young, is a serious risk to health, with a worse effect on life-expectancy than cigarettes, has seriously corrosive effect on social relations and family life.
JTI made payments to Scruton through "Horsell's Farm Enterprises," the consultancy Scruton ran with his wife from their farm house in rural Wiltshire, England.
After the Guardian revealed Scruton's email, the Financial Times dismissed Scruton from his job as a regular columnist for failing to declare his monthly retainer from JTI. Andrew Gowers, the editor of Financial Times, confirmed that Scruton had failed to inform the paper that he had been receiving an annual total of £54,000 (US$77,200) a year from JTI.(5) Scruton also lost his job as a commentator with the Wall Street Journal due to this episode. "We've come in for criticism lately because one of our contributors, the British conservative writer Roger Scruton, wrote an essay for this newspaper while being paid by a Japanese tobacco company... Our long-time standard is that such financial ties should be disclosed, so readers can make up their own minds. Mr Scruton had an obligation to tell us and his readers about his tobacco financing when he was writing about tobacco issues: he didn't, and so he will be taking a holiday from our pages." 
When the Guardian asked Scruton about the leaked email, he said, "The whole thing is quite immoral - the stealing of private correspondence and making it public."
As of November 2006, Roger Scruton's extensive curriculum vitae (posted on his personal web site at http://www.rogerscruton.com/rs-cv.html) contained no mention of his past affiliations with JTI. However, on his website listing of his 'journalism' work Scruton wrote that he contributed "a weekly column on the countryside for the Financial Times weekend magazine 'The Business'" between 1999 and 2002. "The column ceased when a combined attack from the Guardian, ASH and The Independent persuaded the editor that giving public affairs advice to Japan Tobacco International, while writing on rural affairs, amounts to a scandalous conflict of interest. ASH have all the links to the reams of hostile publicity generated and The Spectator published Roger Scruton's account of his work as a consultant to JTI," his website states.
Articles and Resources
- Scruton R. Anything goes—except smoking, Wall Street Journal, February 9, 1998, Section A18.
- Roger Scruton, "A Snort of Derision at Society", London Times, October 19, 1998.
- RJR International, "RJRI News Report", RJ Reynolds, February 3, 1998. Bates No. 530540887/0901. (Accessed 07 Dec 2005). This is a compilation of news reports. Scruton's article, "A Mad World is Assaulting Us Smokers" at page -0893.
- Roger Scruton, WHO, WHAT and WHY?: Transnational government, legitimacy and the World Health Organization,. London: The Institution of Economic Affairs; 2001.
- Kevin Maguire, "Scruton faces sack from FT over tobacco retainers", Guardian (UK), January 25, 2002.
- Kevin Maguire and Julian Borger, "Scruton in media plot to push the sale of cigarettes", Guardian (UK), January 4, 2002.
- Rebecca Allison, "Wall Street Journal drops Scruton over tobacco cash", Guardian (UK), February 5 2002.
- Roger Scruton, "The Journalist", roger-scruton.com, accessed February 2008.
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