It appears that John Howard’s favourite lobbyists, Crosby Textor, don’t mind working for the lowest of corporate ethical bottom dwellers. I recently concluded my membership of a Standards Australia committee set up to develop a standard for reduced ignition propensity (“RIP”) cigarettes which are now law in Canada, six US states and on the books in another 22.

The cigarettes must pass a performance standard so that no more 25% will self-extinguish before burning down when left to burn on a bed of filter paper. There have been 67 deaths from cigarette caused fires in Australia 2000-2006, with thousands of fires caused by discarded cigarettes.

British American Tobacco, which was on the committee, turned up to the first meeting on 14 September 2005 with Crosby Textor’s Mark Kent as “an observer”. After complaints from other members, they came alone to future meetings, as Crikey has covered before.

BAT, alone among tobacco companies, has been lobbying against the introduction of these products. Forcing back the crocodile tears, they told a NSW parliamentary inquiry that the RIP cigarettes might be worse for health, because tests showed marginal increases in some noxious emissions. This is from a company that boasts a 46.2% market share of the Australian cigarette market.

With 19,000 annual tobacco caused deaths a year in Australia, BAT might lose around 8,778 of its best customers annually. Firefighters and health workers have been signing a petition urging the government mandate the standard, and three medical Australians of the Year, Sir Gustav Nossal, Dr Fiona Wood and Prof Ian Fraser, have written to Philip Ruddock who has carriage of such a law, urging it be expedited. For his part, Ruddock has seldom missed a beat in voicing similar concerns to those expressed by BAT.