One of the Republic’s leading medical organisations that campaigns against smoking has admitted it rented out its premises this week for a debate organised by a UK group that receives funding from the tobacco industry.
The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) said it was unaware that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which held a debate on smoking in the college’s premises at Kildare Street in Dublin on Wednesday night, receives support from British American Tobacco.
“We only found out about this shortly before the event. We’ll have to look more closely at this in the future. I can’t see something like this happening again,” said a spokeswoman.
The debate on "How to Really Stop People Smoking" featured leading anti-tobacco campaigner Senator John Crown, and three speakers from the UK and the US who favour fewer restrictions on the sale of tobacco. It was chaired by radio presenter Ivan Yates.
The college, which lobbied before the budget for a minimum 60 cent increase in the price of cigarettes, rents out its premises on commercial terms for meetings, conferences and weddings.
Mr Crown told the meeting that the tobacco industry originally sought to plant doubts in people's minds about research showing the harmful effects of cigarettes. When this no longer worked, it tried to pretend that smoking was a civil liberties issue.
Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said the institute believed in free markets, liberty and personal freedoms. It received 2 per cent of its funding from British American Tobacco.