Staff Spotlight on… Phil Chamberlain, Managing Editor of Tobacco Tactics

26 July 2019
Bath University

We spoke tobacco control, darts, and Nellie Bly.

Warm up: How long have you worked at the Uni? What does your role involve?

I started in April 2019 when I joined STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products) to manage the Tobacco Tactics website. This is a key, indeed world-renowned, output from the University’s Tobacco Control Research Group. So quite a responsibility.

So, can you tell us a bit more about STOP?

It’s a new global tobacco industry watchdog, established with $20m from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and a partnership between the Tobacco Control Research Group here at the University, together with the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (Thailand), The Union (USA) and Vital Strategies (USA). Our mission is to expose the tobacco industry’s efforts to derail tobacco control and hook a new generation of users. We work around the world, with a special focus on low-and middle-income countries where the industry is aggressively targeting communities and where the biggest populations are at risk of tobacco-related diseases.

And Tobacco Tactics?

Tobacco Tactics is a wiki that highlights the strategies and tactics the tobacco industry uses to undermine public health. On it you’ll find rigorously sourced profiles of the key players, organisations, allies and techniques of the tobacco industry. Tens of thousands of journalists, academics, policy-makers, advocates and researchers use it every year because they value our evidence-based approach and accessible style.

What would you most like to achieve while at the University?

Complete my PhD on corporate surveillance.

Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work at the University of Bath? The range and quality of the people I work with on STOP. There is a team of around 30 of us at Bath alone and we’re working with colleagues across the globe. In the Bath team we have such an interesting and diverse group who continually make me reflect and improve – and seeing the work we’ve done together on tobacco industry allies for the STOP website launch this week featured in the Financial Times.

What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?

It goes a lot quicker than you realise, so make the most of all that the University has to offer.

Who was your most influential teacher/educator, and why?

My primary school teacher Robert Rowlinson who had a strong ethical underpinning to a very engaging teaching style.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

From early on I wanted to be a journalist. To be able to marry that with academic rigour – as on my current project investigating tobacco industry allies – is hugely rewarding.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were younger?

That pretty much everyone has imposter syndrome.

What was your first job?

Lifeguard at council swimming pool in North London.

If you could start your own dream business, what would it be?

Running a bookshop. We did have the idea for it in Bath ages ago and did nothing and now there are two very good independent bookshops in the city. The lesson is: let someone who knows what they are doing get on with it.

Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?

The beach at Swanage. It is forever late summer and I’m about nine and we’re going to have fish and chips for tea.

What’s your favourite book or album and why?

John Pilger’s Hidden Agendas was hugely inspiring and that questioning of corporate narratives, such a crucial part of the work I am doing with STOP, and remains influential.

When are you happiest?

A party just before my A-levels, 26 May 1989; ITV screened the whole match.

If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and why? Nellie Bly: pioneering 19th century investigative journalist who got herself committed to an asylum in New York to expose conditions there.

Which one superpower would you like to possess?

A rude-suppressant. With a twitch of my eyebrows people being needlessly rude would become pleasant. Works online as well as in social situations.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I play in a pub darts league; badly. Maybe more surprising the former rather than the latter.

Tell us your favourite joke

The tickle down theory in economics.