Chiswick Writer Launches Book On 'Death And Taxes'

Former Treasury official Craig Pickering says governments placed tobacco revenue over public health


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A book written by Chiswick resident and ex-Treasury official Dr. Craig Pickering, has accused successive Governments of placing a higher emphasis on raising revenue from cigarettes than public health.

‘Death and Taxes; How The Government Shortened The Lives Of Smokers' was launched last night (Jan 9) at the Chris Beetles gallery in central London. The book outlines the British Government’s policy on tobacco duty between 1945 and the early 1980s and details how the need to maximise revenues and manage the economy took precedence over protecting the lives of smokers.

He is sending a copy of the book to Chancellor George Osborne as he says Chancellors are still calculating tobacco tax increases to maximise revenues.

According to Dr. Pickering, (pictured above) who worked in the Treasury for seventeen years; "Treasury Ministers and Prime Ministers, with very few exceptions, were agreed on this stance. Winston Churchill, Denis Healey and Geoffrey Howe come fairly well out of this story, and in different ways Margaret Thatcher and James Callaghan don’t do badly, but Edward Heath appears almost as a silent film villain and Rab Butler and Tony Barber would have done well to be more decisive.

"Officials too performed in different ways. Some showed an understanding of the wider implications for public health, others only wanted to protect the revenue. Too often, officials distorted the medical evidence, suppressed material on the impact of duty rises on smoking volumes, and took steps to obstruct any attempt to suggest that tobacco duty might be used to discourage smoking.

"As early as 1953 a senior Customs official described one of the earliest studies of the link between smoking and cancer as ‘a formidable indictment’. Yet he and his colleagues spent 20 years putting tax revenues first."

Dr. Pickering says that while the story is of historical interest, it also has contemporary resonance. "Chancellors are still calculating tobacco tax increases to maximise revenues. Around a fifth of adults smoke and that figure is flat-lining, not declining. And the book shows how science can be misused to economic ends – a theme that is still alive today. "

‘Death and Taxes’ is available as an e-book on Amazon at

A ‘Death and Taxes’ blog is at

January 21, 2013

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