As an independent retailer it may feel at times that you’re on your own out there. But don’t be downhearted, there is much more going on behind the scenes than may be apparent.

Lobbying in the 90s by a succession of major corporations, led by British American Tobacco, has resulted in the way that EU policy is made being “fundamentally altered”, according to stories in the news today.

A report in The Guardian says researchers writing in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine journal have found that BAT, along with a number of like-minded companies, launched a campaign that hampers the implementation of public health legislation and weakens its impact.

The researchers, funded by the Smoke Free Partnership campaign and Cancer Research UK, say the lobbying means that every policy the EU introduces undergoes a form of “impact assessment” which emphasises the financial costs to business and underestimates the impact on public health. Documents studied show that BAT saw a risk assessment as a means of precluding the introduction of public smoking restrictions, which it saw as a growing threat in Europe.

From a retail view, if British American Tobacco has managed to delay the processes by which public health legislation is introduced into the EU, then it seems that retailers will have benefitted. If, as claimed, BAT was worried about the introduction of legislation from the mid-90s, it seems feasible that without it we could have faced a ban on smoking in public places much sooner than eventually transpired and, indeed, a ban on tobacco display similarly early.

BAT defended the results of the research by claiming that all they have done is supplied information to the EU about potential new policies when invited to do so.

This news should give heart to tobacco retailers. It shows that the tobacco manufacturers have been aware of the potential introduction of a display ban and other impending smoking legislation and have been acting on it from an early stage. One can also safely assume that they are also using whatever is in their powers, and whatever loopholes they can find in EU and UK law, to defend you against the onset of restricted gantry displays.