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Call For Transparency From The Government On Tobacco Industry Influence And Connections

As more questions are raised about the controversial decision to repeal the Smokefree legislation, Public Health experts are calling on coalition Government members to be transparent about any past and current dealings they have had with tobacco companies.

In the latest Briefing by the Public Health Communication Centre, Professor Janet Hoek and co-authors from the University of Otago have compared statements by coalition ministers with those from submissions made by tobacco companies on smokefree policy.

“There are many similarities in the rhetoric the tobacco industry is using and arguments for repeal that coalition ministers are using. We believe it’s critical the Government meets its obligations to protect Aotearoa New Zealand’s smokefree policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry,” says Professor Hoek.

New Zealand has ratified the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which includes clauses to protect policy making from tobacco industry interference. “The FCTC explicitly calls on signatories to protect policy making from tobacco industry influences,” says Professor Hoek. “It also requires governments to interact with tobacco companies only as required for regulatory purposes, and states that all interactions must be documented and transparent.”

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“The fact that the powerful tobacco industry lobby has interfered with governments’ policies internationally and worked to influence public opinion has been well documented. Tobacco companies have a clear vested interest in opposing measures estimated to stop people smoking.”

Support for smokefree legislation is very high; 67% of people polled in a recent survey supported or strongly supported retaining this legislation. “When the Government is clearly out of sync with public opinion, people are entitled to know what influences are shaping policy,” she says.

Professor Hoek says all Government MPs should acknowledge their obligations under the FCTC and the Government should publicly commit to meeting its FCTC obligations. “The guidelines require Government members to declare all past and current interactions of any kind with staff of tobacco companies, or members of groups funded by tobacco companies. We believe a full and complete register of all such interactions should be made public.”

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