A “willingness to be orchestrated”: Why are UK diplomats working with tobacco companies?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The tobacco epidemic is global and addressing it requires global collaboration. International and national policies have been adopted to promote collaboration for tobacco control, including an obligation on diplomatic missions to protect public health from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. However, incidents of diplomats engaging with the tobacco industry are still occurring despite these regulations. This paper presents a case study of a British ambassador actions, and it points to some of the challenges researchers face in monitoring such incidents. Methods: The incident studied in this paper was first identified through regular media monitoring conducted by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath. The incident was further investigated by using the tools made available by the United Kingdom (UK) Freedom of Information Act, including submitting a request, asking for internal review, and submitting a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office. Results: We identified clear evidence of the UK ambassador to Yemen opening a cigarette factory, part owned by British American Tobacco (BAT), in Jordan. Our investigation revealed a lack of documentation of this and similar incidents of interaction between diplomats and the tobacco industry. We raise concerns about the actions of diplomats which contravene both national and international policies. Discussion: Monitoring and reporting such activities produces several challenges. Diplomats' interactions with the tobacco industry represent a major concern for public health as such interactions seem to be systematically repeated. This paper calls for action to better implement national and international policies to protect the public health including in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Original languageEnglish
Article number977713
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

The authors received funding for this work from Bloomberg
Philanthropies, as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce
Tobacco Use. The funders played no role in the research.


  • Article 5.3
  • Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)
  • LMICs
  • diplomat
  • foreign affairs
  • international law
  • lobbying
  • tobacco industry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'A “willingness to be orchestrated”: Why are UK diplomats working with tobacco companies?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this