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Home » Big Tobacco exploit dairy owners in cynical attempt to derail smokefree policy

Big Tobacco exploit dairy owners in cynical attempt to derail smokefree policy

Jun 23, 2021 | Media release

Late yesterday afternoon, Hāpai Te Hauora sent a tweet in response to NZ Herald’s article: Revealed: Big Tobacco behind dairy owners postcard protest at Parliament. The response from Hāpai says “Disappointed – yet not surprised, that Big Tobacco are using dairy owners to lead their agenda to continue to kill New Zealanders.

Hāpai Te Hauora Chief Executive Officer, Selah Hart says “I am not surprised that my team have tweeted immediately after the reveal of Big Tobacco’s involvement with dairy owners lobbying activities. Yes we are all disappointed because we have just spent the last few months supporting real whānau, hapū, iwi and communities to have their say with the Smokefree Action Plan and along comes Big Tobacco with Big Dollars to use dairy owners to push their agenda.

It seems dairy owners cannot see the relevance of their connectivity to Big Tobacco who have over decades devastated real whānau, hapū, iwi and communities and essentially our country’s ability to advance health and wellbeing. Dairy owner Raj Patel said the supplier of the postcard wasn’t important. He says “if it is a situation like this (where) everyone is going to be together, if it is a British American Tobacco, or Imperial [Tobacco] or Philip Morris- we don’t think about it. ” The three companies he mentions are the three largest suppliers of cigarettes to New Zealand. Philip Morris International was the largest tobacco company worldwide in 2020, with a global market value of about 144.8 billion U.S. dollars. British American Tobacco followed in second place with a global market value of approximately 91.6 billion U.S. dollars.

Ms Hart says “Dairy owners should not view Big Tobacco as an ally, they just need to look at the track record of this industry to understand that they cannot be trusted to prioritise anybody but themselves. They know that they can manipulate these small business owners by making them fear for their livelihoods, they are putting dairy owners in an appalling position by pretending that their choice is between financial stability or the health and wellbeing of their customers. We commend those dairy owners who have already taken the principled stance against Big Tobacco and we expect these underhanded tactics will make even more dairy owners think again about supporting this toxic industry.”

ACT Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden received the petition of postcards from dairy owners at Parliament. Van Velden said she didn’t know who had supplied the postcards. Hāpai Te Hauora believe that if the ACT member understands anything about what Big Tobacco have done to Aotearoa New Zealand as a country and people then the suggestion is to bin the postcards. Spokesperson for Tala Pasifika, Edward Cowley says “she should throw out those ‘thousands’ of same same, duplicated, copied postcards as they are obviously pre-written and a waste of time and trees.”

Mr. Cowley says “We understand that there will be hurt for some dairy owners who need to stop selling cigarettes however it really is not much compared to the actual lives lost from smoking, in fact around 4,500 lives lost….they simply don’t hear that and so our conclusion is they begin to behave like their supplier with complete selfishness. This is not the cohort of sound advice we would consider when writing a National Smokefree Action Plan. I guess the Government have to receive all thoughts but public health policy writing should be about advancing a country’s health aspiration and not sending it backwards.”

Ms. Hart adds “We need to see a sustained campaign for Smokefree 2025 to ensure everyone is clear why we need to achieve this goal. It does matter where the postcards come from because it is likely that is where their key messages have come from, they work together to make money. There is nothing wrong with working hard to make money but never when it concerns the lives and indeed the livelihood of others.”

Hāpai Te Hauora urge the Minister of Health, Hon. Andrew Little and Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for tobacco control Hon. Dr Ayesha Verrall to move quickly on the Smokefree Action Plan with raised awareness around lobbying activities from Big Tobacco through dairy owners. 

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