Open Letter to John Key on Tobacco
An Open Letter to the Right Honourable John Key
Prime Minister of New Zealand
04 October 2013
Dear Mr Key
We note you are a featured speaker at the APEC CEO summit in Bali on 5-7 October. This meeting has, as a major sponsor, Sampoerna, an Indonesian subsidiary of Philip Morris, the tobacco giant that manufactures and markets Marlboro cigarettes.
Given that this company produces a product that is addictive, and kills people when used as intended, we urge you to reject the engagement and protest the sponsorship. New Zealand has banned tobacco sponsorship (effective from 1995). Your Government has committed to a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025. New Zealand has also ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2003. The WHO’s guideline for applying this convention says that:
Article 5, 4.10 “Parties should not allow any official or employee of government … to accept payments, gifts or services, monetary or in- kind, from the tobacco industry."
We are concerned that you as Prime Minister by participating in an Industry-sponsored conference will thereby accept an Industry service. We do not see how it can be appropriate for the Prime Minister of New Zealand to speak at a tobacco company sponsored event.
We note that Philip Morris is engaged in an investor-state dispute with the Australian government over legislation for the plain packaging of cigarettes. The industry claims this measure will cause billions of dollars of lost investment earnings based on its intellectual property – its logo and branding. It is abundantly clear that the tobacco industry expects this legislation will decrease smoking. Yet they ignore the public health implications and persist in trying to over-ride the democratic action of the Australian government.
Philip Morris’s products cause death and disease not only to their users but also to thousands of children who are unwillingly exposed. The parents of those children may be desperate to give up smoking but find it extremely difficult because of its addictive nature, based on nicotine. Maori in New Zealand have been disproportionately affected with loss of older generations and ill-health of younger generations due to tobacco. By accepting this company’s hospitality as Prime Minister of New Zealand, you risk sidelining these people, and suggest that corporate interests are more important than the health of New Zealanders.
There is no doctor in New Zealand that could ethically attend a tobacco-industry sponsored event of this kind. We urge you to honour New Zealand's international and national Treaty commitments by withdrawing.
Medical Oncologist, Auckland