• May 23, 2024

Kiwi Ministers Asked to Disclose Tobacco Links

 Kiwi Ministers Asked to Disclose Tobacco Links
Photo: slexp880

Health activists have asked New Zealand’s government ministers do disclose any links to the tobacco industry, noting that the politicians’ rhetoric is strikingly similar to the industry’s key talking points, reports the New Zealand Herald.

The call comes follows the dramatic reversal of New Zealand’s generational tobacco ban legislation by the country’s recently installed coalition government. Last week, said Associate Health Minister Casey Costello drew fire for suggesting a temporary halt to tobacco tax increases in consideration of smokers’ socioeconomic backgrounds—an argument that has also been raised by tobacco allies on occasion.

In a briefing published Jan. 31 by the Public Health Communications Center, three University of Otago public health academics highlight links between government members of parliament and the industry and similarities between their public statements.

The paper points out that the government is a signatory to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires member states to engage with tobacco companies only for regulatory purposes, while recording and disclosing any interactions.

Janet Hoek, the co-director of smoke-free research group Aspire2025, stressed she and her colleagues were not accusing ministers of a conflict of interest. “Our call is simply for full transparency,” she was quoted as saying.

According to Hoek, there is little popular support for the government’s repeal of the smoke-free legislation, which would have reduced the number of retailers selling tobacco, reduced nicotine levels in cigarettes and banned sales to anyone born after 2009.

The paper lists the government’s past and current links to the industry, including two former NZ First staffers, David Broome and Apirana Dawson, who had gone on to work at tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

Under questioning in Parliament on Jan 30, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he was not aware of any ministers receiving donations from anyone associated with the tobacco industry. He added he expected all ministers would comply with their obligations to report potential conflicts.