Questions raised as SNP MSP visited tobacco giant's factory in Switzerland
An SNP MSP has been slammed for accepting hospitality from a multinational cigarrette firm.
Richard Lyle reportedly accepted over £800 in travel and accommodation from Philip Morris International (PMI) despite the fact the company fought the Scottish Government’s policy of plain packaging on cigarettes.
Lyle visited the firm's Swiss factory to help him quit smoking he said.
Ash Scotland has called on the first minister to issue and immediate reprimand.
The visit came days after the firm, which is best known for its Marlboro brand, was reported to have developed a corporate strategy to counter plain packaging.
Lyle said: "The reason I went was not to defend PMI. I took the decision to go because I was given the opportunity to go on a fact finding trip.
“It was because I wanted to change. I went because my family wanted me to give up smoking. I did not discuss it with the party whips or party leadership."
He added: "I totally agree with the Scottish Government's position. I've smoked since I was 12-years-old. I make no apology for being a smoker and a proportion of people still smoke, so we still have to convince people to move off smoking.
“My family are trying to get me off cigarettes and I'm now going to move onto vaping."
However Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, said that taking guidance on health matters from tobacco companies is entirely at odds with the Scottish Government’s vision of a tobacco-free Scotland.
She said: “As a previous member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, Richard Lyle should know better than to go to a tobacco company for help and advice on stopping smoking.
“If he wants to discuss electronic cigarettes he can talk to us, or to one of the independent vaping advocate groups, or to a vape shop on his local High Street.
“What he should never do is accept hospitality from the commercial interests behind the problem, who have a long history of directly opposing Scottish Government measures to reduce smoking.
“When it comes to the tobacco industry my advice would be not to sup with the devil at all.”
An SNP spokesperson said: "The SNP government has legislated in many areas towards the aim of creating a tobacco free generation by 2034 – through measures such as banning smoking in cars with children, banning the sale of tobacco and nicotine vapour products (NVPs) to under 18s and introducing statutory age-verification measures."