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UK: no cigarette under the stiff upper lip

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Staff of the British Foreign and Commonwealth, traditionally reputed to be inscrutable and wily operators when posted to embassies overseas, may have been more secretive than their American colleagues about supporting their country's tobacco interests, but apparently in many cases they were no less active. So a logical development in Britain's espousal of a broadly health driven policy on tobacco was to stop them backing the tobacco industry in any way.

Anyone knowing how these diplomatic “mandarins” work will understand the potential difficulties of changing their rule book, so the news last year that they had been instructed to stop their support of tobacco was as surprising as it was welcome. Following similar measures pioneered by the US government, British embassy staff are no longer allowed to promote, endorse or advise tobacco companies in overseas operations, and are forbidden to attend parties or promotional events hosted by the companies. For the tobacco companies that once appeared to be so thoroughly sheltered by the commercial and political establishment, another small but significant tile has fallen off the roof.

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