Australia: epidemiology classes, shredding, and calls to “the garbageman”: a day in the life of tobacco folk
Tobacco control advocates who are sick of people in high places manipulating and distorting the truth, and then hiding behind “spin doctors” or others who try to cover up their actions, may be a little surprised to find just who they can now number among their friends. The latest recruits to this discerning person’s sick bay include John Basil William St Vincent Welch, who in another age might have been the hero of a Victorian cautionary tale for children, but is actually the former chief executive officer of the Tobacco Institute of Australia (TIA).
Earlier this year, Mr Welch testified in a court hearing held as part of the US government’s anti-racketeering litigation against tobacco companies. Now a self employed industrial relations consultant, Mr Welch has followed a varied career path. He worked for Nestlé, a metal trades organisation, the industrial secretariat of the Australian oil industry, and even the Australian Medical Association, before joining TIA in January 1991. He served there until the end of April the following year, but that relatively short time was a busy one. Among the topics he had to deal with, constantly liaising with the heads of the member tobacco companies, their lawyers and public affairs people, was the burgeoning issue of passive smoking, which was rightly perceived by the tobacco industry as a major threat to its future.
Perhaps this daily liaison, especially involving policies that Mr Welch may have been instructed to handle in a significantly different way than comparable policies he encountered in his previous jobs, contributed to some disillusionment. Take document retention, for example. Quizzed by lawyers for the US government about TIA’s policy, Welch said, “The document retention policy was two-fold. First, when we were in receipt of documents that were potentially damaging to the industry and/or the member …