Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) says a dangerous and cynical “save our stores” campaign paid for by tobacco companies is designed to undermine legislation which will save thousands of lives.
The campaign by British American Tobacco New Zealand and Imperial Brands includes a website, Facebook ads and a petition to stop legislation limiting retailers of smoked tobacco from about 6000 to 600 from mid-2024.
Radio New Zealand reported the campaign appeared to be driven by dairy owners but was in fact “proudly supported” by tobacco companies – a fact that was not obvious to readers.
The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Bill, which came into effect on Jan 1 aims to achieve the Smoke-free 2025 goal of fewer than 5 per cent of people smoking.
Other measures in the amendment include de-nicotisation of cigarettes and a ban on sale to people born on or before 2009, with all measures to be rolled out over the next four years.
HCA co-chair Lisa Te Morenga said the campaign showed tobacco companies could never be trusted to put health – and lives – ahead of profits.
“These companies have claimed they support efforts towards Smoke-free 2025 and yet here they are quietly undermining all that work.”
HCA Smoke-free Expert Panel member Catherine Manning manages a smoking cessation service for Takiri mai te Ata Whanau Ora Collective and said the campaign was advocating for harm to Māori.
“Tupeka Kore (tobacco free) is the goal Māori set as a direct result of the inquiry into the devastating impact that tobacco products have had on Māori.”
“As a Whānau Ora provider, we are working daily to support whānau to quit smoking and this latest ploy by the tobacco industry is about keeping our people addicted to a product that kills or harms them.”
HCA Smoke-free Expert Panel member Professor Janet Hoek, co-Director of the ASPIRE Aotearoa Centre at the University of Otago Wellington said tobacco companies have a long history of corporate duplicity and, this campaign was just another example.
“The campaign website sets out a doomsday narrative that has no empirical basis and does nothing other than reveal the depths to which tobacco companies will fall to continue selling their products, which kill 5000 New Zealanders every year.”
HCA is calling on all political parties to commit to the full implementation of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Bill measures, and not be swayed by the duplicitous tactics of Big Tobacco.
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Enquiries: Cate Macintosh – 0278365001