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Clark's Anti Smoking Obsession Shows Dark Side

16 March 2000


Prime Minister Helen Clark's fanatical anti-smoking obsession is driving the Government down an extremely dangerous path, says United New Zealand Party leader, Hon Peter Dunne.

He says that the issue has now become much bigger than just tobacco, and that the Prime Minister has lost her sense of perspective completely.

"There can be no other example where a Government actively consorts and conspires with an extremist pressure group like ASH to curtail the activities of an industry which is operating within the law."

"Whatever one's views of the tobacco industry, that is a dangerous assault on democracy and the rule of law which a civil society should resist intently," Mr Dunne says.

Mr Dunne says the absurdity of the Government's position is highlighted by the fact that on the basis of its actions to date the following examples of attacks on legal industries, because of the pressure of vested interests, would be equally justified:

· The Government joining Temperance and Road Safety Groups to sue the liquor industry for alcohol-related car crashes and health problems.

· The Government suing the dairy and meat industries with McDonalds and Pizza Hut as second defendants for people's eating habits, at the behest of Jenny Craig and Weightwatchers.

· The Government suing oil companies because of air pollution impacts, at the behest of the alternative fuels industry.

· The Government suing television companies for showing trashy kids programmes, at the behest of the PPTA and NZEI.

"I concede it is easy and probably popular to attack tobacco companies, but however unpopular they may be, the essence of democracy is that while they remain legal they have the same rights as every other legal entity."

"I am speaking up now, because we are at the start of a very slippery slope if we so easily compromise democratic principles because we do not like a particular legal industry."

"If the Prime Minister was really serious about this issue, she would ban smoking altogether, something even someone as obsessed as her acknowledges is impractical and unworkable," Mr Dunne says.


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