Skoal Bandits

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The book also contains, however, a highly revealing postscript to one of the most curious affairs to arise in Scotland during the Tory years. Remember Skoal Bandits and the horrendous decision by the Scottish Office to stump up £200,000 to help US Tobacco set up a distribution warehouse for Europe in East Kilbride? US Tobacco were also to become Greer clients paying £120,000 for the lobbying effort which was aimed at fending off a ban on Skoal Bandits - "teabags" of moistened chewing tobacco which were known to cause mouth cancer.
The Scottish Industry Minister at the time of the East Kilbride grant was Allan Stewart, a member of the Thatcherite "no-turning-back group" and long -standing supporter (in spite of being a non-smoker) of Forest, the pro -smoking pressure group which is financed by the tobacco industry. Ostensibly on right-wing libertarian grounds the no-turning-back group was the parliamentary bastion of the tobacco lobby. Michael Forsyth, Michael Brown, and Neil Hamilton were, for instance, three members of the group who signed a Commons motion in 1986 welcoming research which purported to show that passive smoking was not dangerous. Brown, who had previously worked with Forsyth's lobbying company, Michael Forsyth Associates, was another of the MPs frequently to be found to have a known association with Ian Greer. In December 1985, he began to ask supportive questions in the Commons about Skoal Bandits. Hamilton joined in with letters to the Health Minister suggesting that, "it would be anomalous to take action solely against Skoal Bandits" when other tobacco products were left untouched.
The immediate threat to Skoal Bandits in 1986 came from a private member's Bill introduced by the Labour MP, John Home Robertson, which made it an offence to sell them to minors. John recalls that although the Bill became law, the Government never brought it into effect. US Tobacco's lobbying was having its effect. Hamilton has since claimed that his support for Skoal Bandits was on ideological" grounds rather than financial ones. But, with the formalisation of a Greer contract in 1988, that changed. According to the authors of Sleaze, Greer baulked at giving both Hamilton and Brown "the usual" 10% commission but insisted that the £12,000 be divided between them. They claim there were also lavish trips to the United States.
By this time, Skoal Bandits were up against Edwina Currie at the Department of Health and John Home Robertson pays unstinting tribute to her role. The book recalls that, when Brown and Hamilton secured a meeting with her: "Edwina Currie angrily showed them colour photos of face cancer victims", and turfed them out without further discussion. Undeterred, Hamilton went so far as to table an amendment to the 1989 Fi-nance Bill which would have benefited oral tobacco! John Home Robertson's Bill, Edwina Currie's hostility, and the strong advice of the Government's own health advisers, were all closing in on Skoal Bandits. An Order was finally introduced for the banning of the product five years after Allan Stewart had given them the grant and the no turning back group had launched its "ideological" campaign in support of US Tobacco and its appalling innovation.[1]


  1. The Herald (Glasgow) February 7, 1997 How 'MPs for hire' have degraded democratic process BYLINE: Brian Wilson SECTION: Pg. 22