Adam Smith Institute

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

The Adam Smith Institute (ASI), based in London, has been a major force for the introduction of market-based policies in Britain. It operates as a UK think tank.

Name confusion

In the early 1990s, the Institute extensively licensed and sold its name around the world. IIR, the world's largest conference company, has the rights to the name Adam Smith Institute in Russia. In Western Europe, Marketforce Communications Ltd has the right to organize conferences under the ASI name. At one point Business Seminars International Ltd had a license to use the ASI name.

Confusion abounded after a commercial consultancy firm, Adam Smith International Limited, which had been using the Institute's name started bidding for contracts from the Department for International Development. (An example of the work including the Reconstruction of Iraq contractors working as part of the Iraq Public Administration Reform Programme.) It led the former Communications Director of the Foreign Policy Centre, Rob Blackhurst in the New Statesman to write: "...The Adam Smith Institute - once the informal common room of Conservative Central Office - courted the new government in 1997 with seminars on "how to achieve Labour's goals". Now the government is the institute's biggest funder, paying more than £7m out of the overseas aid budget last year for advice on "public sector reform" in developing countries such as Afghanistan and Palestine..."[1] None of this £7m actually found its way to the Adam Smith Institute.


Madsen Pirie, Eamonn Butler and Stuart Butler were students together at University of St Andrews, Scotland. In 1973, they left Scotland to work with Edward Feulner, an Senator from the State of Illinois who became co-founder of the free-market think tank the Heritage Foundation, in 1973.

After their apprenticeship in America, Pirie and Butler returned to Scotland in 1977 to found their own think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, set up with the help of Antony Fisher of the Institute of Economic Affairs.[2]

The ASI was influential in publishing papers outlining the fundamentals of the poll tax between 1981 and 1985, instituted by the British government in 1991.[citation needed]

Tobacco industry involvement

According to an internal Philip Morris report on the influence of the Adam Smith Institute, a series of specific points in ASI proposals have become policy and been enacted into law.[2] These include:

  • requiring local authorities to allow private contractors to perform city services
  • building public infrastructure using private finance
  • deregulating urban bus services
  • cutting income tax to a maximum of 40%
  • using private firms to build and operate prisons
  • Liberalizing laws relating to sale and consumption of alcohol
  • keeping down duties on alcohol and tobacco

According to an 1992 internal PM memo written by Craig Fuller of Philip Morris, PM worked with ASI on creating an international center to train journalists to be "idealogically consistent with PM's issues and interests." The journalist training center model was based on a similar program successfully implemented at the PM-supported National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.[3]

The Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers (CECCM) used ASI to coordinate projects to oppose European tobacco control initiatives. In 1992 the CCEM's board gathered to considered hosw to respond to restrictions proposed by the European Commission. The board's agenda listed for discussion a "two-phased Adam Smith Institute project on a counter-defence of the traditional values of European individual freedom - within a special project budget of £30,000."[4]

CCEM's Advertising and Sponsorship Study Group recommended to the board that it fund two reports to help defend the industry.

"The first proposal was for an Adam Smith institute (AS1) report by Russell Lewis and Timothy Evans of some 20,000 to 25,000 wards, a draft of which could be available by the end of November 1992. The report would position the EC anti-tobacco proposals in the context of a host of proposals which progressively restrict personal freedom, and present a punitive counter-argument for the traditional values of European individual freedom. The AS] has agreed in principle to adopt the proposed report and effectively to market it as an ASI report The ASI has contacts with a number or institutes across Europe and will attempt, if required, a collaborative public relations campaign on the report; its tobacco report may therefore be expected to generate substantial press and media coverage.[5]


ASI Fellows

Former personnel


Contact details

Adam Smith Institute
23 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BL
Tel +44 (0)20 7222 4995
Fax: +44 (0)20 7222 7544

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Rob Blackhurst, "The sad decline of the policy wonks", New Statesman, January 31, 2005.
  2. Philip Morris, "The Influence of the Adam Smith Institute", Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates No 2065244208, December 1994 (estimated).
  3. Craig Fuller "January Monthly Report", Memo, February 4, 1992, Bates Number 2024671858/1861.
  4. Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers Limited, "Board Meeting to be held at 1000am on Tuesday, 8 September 1992", page 2. Bates number:500002882-500002883.
  5. Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers Limited, "Minutes in extenso of board Meeting held at 10 00 a. m. on Tuesday, 8 September 1992", page 7. Bates Number 301151511.

External resources

External articles

  • Keith Dixon, Les évangélistes du Marché, (Paris, Raisons d’Agir- 1998, 1998).
  • Richard Cockett,Thinking the unthinkable: think-tanks and the economic counter-revolution, 1931-1983, Fontana Press, 1995.
  • Rebecca Smithers, "Fair trade branded 'unfair': A report by the Adam Smith Institute says fair trade offers a better deal to some producers at the expense of the great majority of farmers", Guardian, February 25 2008.
  • The palm oil PR offensive is gathering pace – but not weight

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