Tobacco 'truth campaign' call

Indigenous smoking researcher Marewa Glover Photo: RNZ
Marewa Glover. Photo: RNZ
A concerted campaign is still needed when it comes to revealing the tactics of the tobacco industry, a University of Otago academic says.

RNZ reported yesterday the centre run by Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year finalist and former Massey University academic Prof Marewa Glover accepts money from the Foundation for a Smokefree World - funded by tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI).

Prof George Thomson said he stood by his comments New Zealand needed a "truth campaign" about the tobacco industry.

"New Zealand has never had a government media campaign about the tobacco industry, or court- ordered public information paid by the industry, so it will need more than one RNZ story to effectively inform the public," he said.

In 2006 the tobacco industry was found to have violated civil racketeering laws in the United States and as a result, was ordered to tell the truth about the effects of cigarettes, which was done publicly through advertisements.

Examples of other campaigns against tobacco include the American EX campaign, targeting smoking in adults and involving personal stories of ex-smokers.

Prof Thomson described the Foundation for a Smokefree World as "a sophisticated effort to obscure PMI's actual intentions, to confuse policymakers and health sectors, and increase industry legitimacy".

Taking tobacco industry money meant the receiver thought they were either smarter than the industry or smarter than the World Health Organisation, he said.

According to RNZ, Prof Glover's Centre for Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty and Smoking, which is a strong advocate of vaping, has received $1.5million from the foundation since 2018.

PMI and other tobacco companies have been moving into vaping and away from their traditional markets.

Prof Glover described the criticisms made of her as "in-fighting" and she had never made any secret of the fact she had applied for a grant from the foundation - and the process she went through was the same as any grant.

"All I can say is what the truth is, the truth is that I put in a research proposal to the Foundation for a Smokefree World.

"It was all my own idea, just building on the work that I've done over the last 27 years, still very much focused on reducing smoking prevalence."

She believed it was important to stay sceptical of the industry - but said she had done due diligence and believed the foundation was truly independent. Her opponents viewed her as an "ideological competitor", she said.

"This whole truth campaign is an American idea from I think 20 years ago. Times have changed and my critics just keep pushing the same thing, the same punitive measures."

The Government had already said the next Bill coming up would be the Smokefree Environments Bill, which it had signalled it would support.

The Government already had a vaping website and she wanted that to be given a chance, rather than people continuing to "bash" smokers, she said.

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