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Lobbying

Both Sides of the Argument? JTI-MacDonald’s Anti-Plain Packaging Spin in Canada

1 Nov, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Julia Smith

Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

JTI-MacDonald recently launched a multimedia campaign, Both Sides of the Argument, to sway public opinion against proposed plain packaging legislation in Canada. The campaign includes advertisements on popular radio stations, a website, posters in restaurant and bar bathrooms, advertisements in national newspapers and sponsored posts on Facebook. The advertisements and website state that they are “A JTI-Macdonald Corporation Initiative”, however JTI-Macdonald is not a household name in Canada. It is therefore unlikely the viewers/listeners will recognize that the campaign is funded by a tobacco company.

The arguments, presentation and even name of the campaign is remarkably similar to one implemented by British American Tobacco New Zealand, titled ‘Agree–Disagree’, which coincided with the NZ government’s standardized packaging consultations. Analysis of the New Zealand campaign found that messaging misrepresented the intent of the proposed legislation, claimed standardized packaging would harm all brands, and used vague premises as a basis for claiming negative outcomes. The commonalities between the campaigns suggest similar strategies might be used elsewhere, and also creates opportunities for public health advocates to counter industry opposition to plain packaging.

While the Canadian campaign purports to present ‘Both Sides of the Argument’, it quite clearly represents only one perspective. A section of the website, subtitled Has Plain Packaging worked in Australia?, first presents “The evidence for why plain packaging worked in Australia”, appearing to represent the pro-plain packaging camp. However, the text underneath states that there is no evidence plain packaging contributed to declines in smoking, linking to an Australian government site that documents smoking prevalence, but does not mention plain packaging. Underneath this “the evidence for why plain packaging did not work in Australia” is presented. The claim that plain packaging is ineffective is repeated, this time supported by links to JTI-funded research and press releases. ‘Both sides of the argument’ conveniently supports the same conclusion by linking only to JTI funded  ‘research’ and spin.Campaign messages are continually buttressed by weak evidence from organizations with known links to the tobacco industry. For example the site refers to an Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) report that “demonstrates plain packaging policy is destined to fail.” Not only does the IEA have a long and well documented history of producing research to counter tobacco control initiatives while receiving funding from the industry, the “report” is in fact a brief blog, which in turn links to an even shorter news report that cites statistics without reference or explanation.

JTI-MacDonald did commission an independent firm, Forum Research, to poll 2000 Canadians on their views about plain packaging. A quick scan of the research report reveals numerous weaknesses. Many of the questions are clearly leading. Take, for example, the following: “Some people say that a change to ‘plain’ packaging from multiple different brand designs will make it easier to produce fake cigarette packaging and increase the amount of illegal cigarettes sold in Canada. Do you think this is unlikely or likely?” In response to a question asking if respondents could explain plain packaging to someone else only 17% answered positively. Considering these results, the survey essentially documents the opinions of uninformed individuals. The sampling method in general is unclear, with the only details provided being that 2301 regionally and demographically representative Canadians completed an online survey during a week in August. How the participants were selected to ensure the sample was ‘demographically representative’ is not stated.

Encouragingly, for tobacco control advocates, comments on the campaigns Facebook posts reveal that not everyone is falling for the spin. Of the 50 most recent comments (as of 24 October 2016) under a Both Sides of the Argument post from 4 October 2016, 19 point out the weaknesses in the campaign, identify it as astroturfing, and call out the tobacco industry for promoting junk science.

 

Big Tobacco’s dirty tricks in opposing plain packaging

24 Oct, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Jenny Hatchard, University of Bath

Tobacco companies want to sell you cigarettes – today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Whether you’re at the tobacco counter or out with friends, glitzy cigarette packaging is a really important part of their sales pitch. Tobacco companies are aware of this. It’s why they are so opposed to their cigarettes being put in plain packaging.

But it isn’t just tobacco companies that are against plain packaging. In the UK, where plain packaging was introduced in 2016, business associations, think tanks and civil society groups publicly campaigned against the policy and academics, research consultants and public relations and law firms variously wrote lengthy reports and lobbied the government.

But why would these organisations lobby against plain packaging? On looking into these opposition groups, our recent research gives a clear answer. Opponents of plain packaging tend to have links to the tobacco industry. So much so that three-quarters of organisations identified in our study had financial links to tobacco companies.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Decades of research into political activity by the tobacco industry has shown that “third parties” are used to campaign against tobacco-control policies. Health advocates are aware of this. In 2005, the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control committed the countries that signed the convention to protect tobacco policy from interference by the tobacco industry and, crucially, groups linked to them. In response, in 2011, the UK government committed to publishing details of any policy meetings with tobacco companies and the Department of Health routinely requests disclosure of tobacco industry links. So far so good. In doing so, the UK sets a strong example.

Third party interference

But our research shows how “third party” opposition to tobacco control policies extends tobacco industry interference beyond this realm of government. In a three-year period which included the 2012 government consultation on plain packaging, 88% of research and 78% of public communications opposing plain packaging were carried out by organisations with financial links to tobacco companies (see figure 1). And public and retailer campaigns funded by tobacco companies to mobilise opposition to plain packaging generated 98% of the more than 420,000 negative postcard and petition submissions to the consultation.

Figure 1
Author provided

In this way, ideas and arguments that come from tobacco companies and their research spill into public spaces. Once there, they can influence the public and political mood on life-saving tobacco control policies and create a misleading impression of diverse and widespread opposition. This is known in the world of political science as “conflict expansion”. And the potential effects are significant. When widespread, these “third party” activities can work to delay and even prevent policies: it took four years to get from consultation to implementation in the UK.

This wouldn’t be so serious if organisations and tobacco companies were open about their relationships. But, in many cases, links were not easy for the research team to detect. Of 150 examples of public communications, less than 20% explicitly acknowledged tobacco industry connections. And, while academics and research consultants tended to clearly report funding sources, “third parties” promoting their research in press releases, news stories and letters to government, frequently did not.

If they were open about their financial relationships with tobacco firms, business and civil society organisations would give the public, politicians and officials the opportunity to scrutinise their arguments and evidence in context. In the case of plain packaging, a lack of openness masked these links and lent credibility to claims that the policy lacked evidence and would increase the trade in illicit cigarettes – claims which have been shown to be unfounded by both peer-reviewed research and by the High Court in Britain. Now, as more countries move to introduce plain packaging, “third party” transparency remains an issue.

In order to help countries guard against tobacco industry interference, awareness can be raised of the effects of their activities on public and political debates. And steps could be taken to make their relationships with tobacco companies clearer. A compulsory register of tobacco companies’ memberships, political activities and associated spending would be a strong first move.

There is strong global commitment to addressing the problem of tobacco industry interference. Parties to the framework convention meet in India in November amid concerns about this issue, and the message to the tobacco industry from the WHO is clear: “The world understands who you are and what you do, and is determined to stamp out the global plague which you do so much to spread.”

The Conversation

Jenny Hatchard, Political Scientist, University of Bath

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Southeast Asia: Indonesia lags in curbing tobacco industry interference in policy making

11 Oct, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Indonesia has once again emerged as a clear laggard in curbing tobacco industry interference in policy-making, according to a report ranking countries in the Southeast Asia region based on their level of implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It is the third annual report on tobacco industry interference prepared by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

Indonesia is the only country whose score increased in both the 2015 and 2016 reports among the seven surveyed in all three years (Brunei, Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Indonesia). Its 2014 score of 78 (the first year of the survey) reflected a very high level of interference, and exceeds the scores of all other countries in any year of the survey. Indonesia’s score has continued to worsen, and stands at 84 in the 2016 report. The maximum possible score is 100; a higher score reflects a greater level of interference.

fig-5-seatca-rankings

Ranking of countries in the Southeast Asia region by tobacco industry interference, as calculated by SEATCA. Source: 2015 ASEAN report on implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dismal result is a stark illustration of why Indonesia, one of only a handful of countries that has not signed the FCTC, is a tobacco control ‘rogue state’. The country achieved worldwide infamy in 2010 when a video of a smoking toddler went viral. The video prompted increased media coverage of the striking absence of effective tobacco control policies and regulation in Indonesia, a situation which tobacco companies have taken full advantage of to saturate the country in cigarette advertising.

The Global Adults Tobacco Survey (GATS) of 15 low and middle income countries with high tobacco use published in 2012 found that Indonesia was among the countries with the highest adult male smoking prevalence at 67%. The lax regulations extend to failure to protect Indonesians from secondhand smoke; the GATS also found that 85% of people who visited restaurants were exposed to tobacco smoked and 82% reported seeing cigarette advertising within the last month – exposure far higher than any other country surveyed. Unsurprisingly, Indonesia’s (male) youth smoking prevalence is among the highest in the world; according to the 2014 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 35% of boys aged 13-15 are current smokers.

At the other end of the scale, the standout countries in the 2016 report were Brunei and the Philippines. Brunei was ranked first for the third year in a row with a score of 29, unchanged from 2014 and 2015. The Philippines has seen a dramatic improvement from a score of 71 in 2014 down to 38 in 2016. Cambodia and Malaysia have also shown consistent improvement from their 2014 scores to be ranked equal fourth at a score of 49 in 2016.

The SEATCA report can be accessed by clicking here. 

Finally, some truth in advertising from the tobacco industry

21 Sep, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Stan Shatenstein

Editor & Publisher, STAN Bulletin

JTI-Macdonald is one of Canada’s big three tobacco firms. On Saturday 17 September, it ran an ad in several of Canada’s leading newspapers to argue against tobacco plain packaging legislation, which the Canadian government is currently considering. The ad is shown here:

Advertisement by JTI-Macdonald against tobacco plain packaging in Canada

Advertisement by JTI-Macdonald against tobacco plain packaging in Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ad may have been intended to argue against plain packaging, but by loading a cigarette pack with 20 bullets, the company has inadvertently reminded Canadians that the product it sells is actually a deadly weapon – a smoking gun, by an unconscionable industry’s own unconscious admission.

 

Australia: progress on Tasmania’s tobacco free generation legislation

15 Jul, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Kathryn Barnsley, University of Tasmania

In 2012 and 2014 we reported that the Australian state of Tasmania was developing mechanisms for implementing the tobacco free generation (TFG).

Tasmania has been paradoxically both a leader in legislative reform and a laggard in allocating resources to tobacco control.

The Public Health Amendment (Tobaccofree Generation) Bill 2014 was tabled in the Tasmanian Parliament in November 2014 by an Independent MP Hon. Ivan Dean. The Bill proposes to phase out the sale of tobacco products to any person born after the year 2000. The Bill is a measure to curtail supply; smoking would not be criminalised and there would be no penalties for using or possessing tobacco. The Bill was referred to a Parliamentary Committee in March 2015. It has been debated and scrutinised for well over a year. The committee was asked to look at the workability and practicality of the Bill.

The Committee, brought down its report in July 2016, making the following key findings:

  1. There does not appear to be any significant legal impediment to the operation of the Bill in delivering the policy intent.
  2. The Parliament should take a measured and cautious approach in considering a Bill which could limit or ‘extinguish’ fundamental rights relating to age, equality and liberty.
  3. The Bill raises some practical legal issues in relation to online sales and the impact of the Bill on tourism/tourists. The proposer of the Bill may wish to give consideration to amendment of the Bill to avoid negative impacts on tourism.
  4. Should the Bill be supported, appropriate education programs would be required to effectively implement the Bill. This would incur a cost and would be a matter for the Government of the day.”

A number of submissions were made including one from Lois Ireland, a retailer, who said:

“I made a conscious decision to stop gaining a profit from sales of a product that I knew to be highly addictive and that was causing long term health issues with those who I knew personally as members of my community. I knew they would go elsewhere to purchase their cigarettes but I did not wish to be further implicated in their poor health choices.

As a result, I fully endorse any moves that make it more difficult for young people to take up/continue smoking, despite any effects such measures may have on businesses. To be honest I’d be happy to see a ban on all sales – think how much lower our hospital costs would be!”

Other submissions were made by the tobacco industry and their front organisations including the Alliance of Australian retailers (AAR) which was set up to lobby against plain packaging – but seems to have extended its reach. The UK University of Bath website has exposed AAR as a tobacco industry front organisation.

The Cancer Council of Tasmania (CCT) carried out two surveys of public opinion on smoking matters including questions on TFG. The CCT survey shows that 75% of Tasmanians support the idea of a tobacco free generation, an increase on previous surveys.

The Bill: 

  • WILL prevent the sale of tobacco products to persons born since the year 2000, that is, members of the tobacco-free generation.
  • NOT prevent members of the tobacco-free generation from smoking, or attempting to purchase tobacco products. Members of the tobacco-free generation would not incur any penalties for smoking.

The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner has written to the Parliament to advise that the Bill does not constitute unlawful discrimination.

A number of lawyers and an international human rights expert also provided reports and advice to the Committee. Dr. Gogarty from the University of Tasmania said there was no legal impediment to the Bill, but expressed concerns about age discrimination and liberty. A comprehensive response and rebuttal to Dr. Gogarty’s advice was provided by Barrister Neil Francey, who says that Dr. Gogarty abandons a strict legal approach and adopts an “extreme libertarian” approach.

Ethicist Dr van der Eijk added, relating to the absence of a right to smoke. “It is highly unlikely that, given the toxic and addictive nature of smoking, it can be defended as liberty right……and children’s rights.” Also, “Smoking can also not be defended as a privacy right.”

Eminent international Professor of Law, and Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs in Boston USA, Professor W. Parmet also commented,

“Critically there is no fundamental right to exercise all of one’s choices without any, even indirect, legal hurdles. If that were the case, cigarette taxes, which also make It harder for some people to exercise their choice to smoke by raising the cost of cigarettes would also violate individual’s fundamental rights. Indeed, all public health laws would violate someone’s fundamental right, as all impose some road blocks on individual choice. ….In debating the wisdom of any particular public health law, it is important not to confuse the question of whether the benefits conferred by the law outweigh the inconveniences and hurdles It imposes, with the question of whether it violates recognized fundamental rights, such as the right to bodily integrity or free speech.”

The current conservative Liberal Tasmanian government has said that it might raise the “smoking age” to 21 or 25 years instead of proceeding with the TFG. This proposal has been met with a deluge of criticism in Tasmania, as all major local health groups support the TFG proposal and there is immense community support. Professor Simon Chapman criticised the raising of smoking age to 21 proposal as a “symbolic political gesture”.

The TFG Bill may be debated in the Legislative Council in August 2016. However, the conservative Liberal government remain opposed to the TFG, and have implemented no new initiatives on tobacco control since being elected over two years ago.

Tobacco industry attacks WHO, but only incriminates itself

26 Feb, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Mary Assunta, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance

The tobacco industry lost the health argument 50 years ago, and in the past decade the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) developed the antidote to reverse the smoking epidemic. However the tobacco industry is stepping up direct attacks, particularly at WHO. Recently the industry took pot shots yet again at WHO and the FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP) in its mouthpiece, Tobacco Reporter. The article, (Snail Mail, Jan 2016) makes several ludicrous accusations against both WHO and the COP but ends up only incriminating itself. We pull quotes from the article and provide our response.

TR: “Most of the besuited classes that turn up at COP7 will have few insights into the lives of the financially impoverished people who tend to make up the world’s smokers.

SEATCA: In reality the tobacco industry has been making billions in profits from selling cigarettes to financially impoverished people all over the world. Eighty percent of the world’s 1.2 billion smokers are in developing countries http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/. Studies have shown that in the poorest households in many low-income countries, spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10% of total household expenditure http://www.who.int/tobacco/research/economics/rationale/poverty/en/. Don’t forget the famous response from the R.J. Reynolds executive when asked why he didn’t smoke: “We don’t smoke that shit! We just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid.”

TR: “People who turn up at COP7 will almost certainly be well-fed and cossetted

SEATCA: Government officials make up the bulk of the delegates who attend the COP and it seems the industry has no qualms insulting them.

TR: “Wonder whether these smokers really want to trade in what is possibly one of the few enjoyments they have for the few extra years of poverty and struggle …

SEATCA: Most smokers started smoking when they were still minors and did not know any better. Most smokers (70%) want to quit. What the industry refers to flippantly as “few enjoyments” actually leads to illness for many million smokers. Worldwide, about 6 million people die each year , often painfully, because of smoking. This not only affects smokers – it devastates families, emotionally and financially.

TR: “There are far too many people demonizing smokers…

SEATCA: The FCTC does not demonise smokers. It does the reverse to help smokers quit. Smokers are addicted to nicotine and exposed to the thousands of harmful chemical compounds in the product. Two out three of the tobacco industry’s long term customers die prematurely because of their smoking, however the industry continues to push this harmful product. FCTC measures are aimed squarely at the industry, protecting non-smokers and supporting smokers to quit.

TR: “… making decisions about cigarette smoking without understanding it.

SEATCA: There is no misunderstanding because the evidence is in – cigarette smoke contains 7,000 chemical compounds, many of which are carcinogenic.

TR: “People choose to smoke.

SEATCA: Nicotine addiction is not a choice. Most smokers want to quit but find it hard – the addiction is potent displaying similarities to hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. For decades, the tobacco industry denied or downplayed the harms of tobacco, and it has engineered its products to enhance their addictiveness. It has fought regulations to protect non-smokers from cigarette smoke, restrictions on advertising, and health warnings to inform the public about the danger of smoking.

The WHO is fulfilling its responsibility to support 180 governments’ obligation to implement the FCTC to reduce tobacco use and reverse the smoking epidemic to save lives. An industry that continues to peddle a product that kills has lost the basic concept of humanity.

Shame on the tobacco industry for exploiting the poor and taking pot shots at the WHO and the COP.

 

Big tobacco, child labour and the International Labour Organization

8 Feb, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

 

“The aim is to inhibit incorporation of ILO into WHO Anti-Smoking Program”

So states a Philip Morris memo from December 1988, available through the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents (see page 8).

Nearly 30 years on, the tobacco industry appears to be doing very well at nurturing its alliance with the International Labour Organization (ILO). In a May 2015 press release on its website, the ILO announced an agreement to “develop global guidance on hazardous child labour and occupational safety and health in tobacco growing” (a somewhat ironic goal for a product that kills 6 million people a year).

The agreement is with the august-sounding ‘Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-growing Foundation’ (ECLT). The ILO press release has a paragraph about the ECLT Foundation:

‘The Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation is a global leader in preventing child labour in tobacco agriculture and protecting and improving the lives of children in tobacco-growing areas. ECLT strengthens communities, improves policies, and advances research so that tobacco-growing communities can benefit from agriculture while ensuring that their children are healthy, educated, and safe.’

In reality, ECLT is an alliance of tobacco companies and growers – a front group for the industry. ECLT’s stated intention may be to ensure tobacco-growing communities can ensure that their children are healthy, educated and safe, but the reality is that it is an industry that profits from people who overwhelmingly become addicted to its products as children, and which inflicts enormous hardship and poverty.

According to the ILO website, the agreement with ECLT “will promote tripartite action to ensure children do not perform this work”, and “its development will be facilitated by the ILO with advice from experts from the tobacco sector, academia, and others, and will include tripartite consultations.” It also states that the “results of efforts supporting social dialogue on combating child labour in agriculture in the three target countries will feed into the IV Global Child Labour Conference, to be held in Argentina in 2017.” Initiatives such as this provide the industry with the opportunity to have a seat at the policy table, among respected organisations and sometimes Member State Delegations, an effective counter to its status as a pariah industry.

The ECLT has been a key tobacco industry strategy in the wake of several damaging revelations about the extent of child labour within the industry in recent years. While the ILO website gives little away about the real nature of the ECLT, there is no such coyness on the Philip Morris (PMI) homepage, which displays the ILO logo as part of a promotion about Philip Morris’ child labour corporate social responsibility initiatives.

PMI’s ILO logo prompted the Pascal Diethelm, president of the Swiss health organisation OxyRomandie to write in January to the Director General of the International Labour Organization to draw attention to possible illegal use of the logo. He noted the importance of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to prevent tobacco industry interference in the policies of international organisations of the United Nations. Allowing the use of the ILO logo on the homepage of a tobacco multinational would appear to violate Article 5.3, and is particularly surprising given the ILO logo is legally protected and ‘may not be used without express permission, which will only be granted when appropriate in very limited circumstances’. At the time of publication, the ILO has yet to respond. (Read the letter here: 20160127-oxyromandie-letter-to-ilo-re-logo-on-pmi-website).

PMO & ILO 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The OxyRomandie letter is not the first time the ILO has been alerted to the issues of collaborating with the tobacco industry. In August 2013, Dr Mary Assunta of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance wrote to then director of the International Program on Child Labour at the ILO to inform the agency of its obligations under the FCTC. She raised concerns about ILO endorsement of the ECLT, noting that it was likely in violation of FCTC Articles 5.3 and 13, and outlined the problem of the tobacco industry being given a platform to gain access to policy makers through its corporate social responsibility initiatives. She called on the ILO to dissociate itself from the ECLT and set a definitive deadline to completely halt child labour in tobacco farming. She also received no response. (Read the SEATCA letter here: 20130813-seatca-letter-to-ilo).

Additional links:

Eliminating child labour in Malawi: a British American Tobacco corporate responsibility project ot sidestep tobacco labour exploitation

SEATCA report – Child labour in tobacco cultivation in the ASEAN region http://seatca.org/dmdocuments/ChildLabor%20Final%202013.pdf

Jamaica: United Way charity under pressure over tobacco industry links

10 Jun, 15 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Tobacco industry corporate philanthropy and social responsibility has been under the international spotlight recently with the revelation that the American Red Cross continues to accept tobacco industry donations, despite concerns of the International Red Cross that US Red Cross risks damaging the global reputation of the network. Accepting tobacco industry donations is particularly problematic for charitable organisations that work to improve public health, given tobacco industry profitability is only possible at the expense of the health – and lives – of the industry’s best customers.

Barbara McGaw of the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control and Deborah Chen of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica report of a charitable organisation accepting tobacco industry funds, causing a split in the charity sector in Jamaica:

United Way of Jamaica (UWJ) is a key charitable organisation in Jamaica. Through its umbrella group, the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS), it has membership of all of the Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in the country, including health-related NGOs such as the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Cancer Society and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica. UWJ and CVSS are sister organisations; their offices, secretariat and CEO are shared, and they have 4 board members in common. United Way Jamaica provides funding for a range of CVSS member organisation projects.

At a function to celebrate the 29th National Builders Awards Ceremony of UWJ in September 2014, Carreras Limited (a subsidiary of BAT) was lauded as UWJ highest corporate donor for 2013. Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, who was a guest speaker at the function, presented the award. The Minister’s involvement contravenes Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the guidelines of which state that Parties “should not endorse, support, form partnerships with or participate in activities of the tobacco industry described as socially responsible”. The Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JCTC) wrote to the Minister about the issue; according to his response, the event invitation did not indicate that he would be presenting awards. However, he acknowledged that his role in presenting to Carreras would not be in keeping with the spirit of Article 5.3 of the FCTC.

Against this background, in September 2014, the JCTC wrote to the Chairman of UWJ and suggested that the organisation cease accepting funds from the tobacco industry. Despite further correspondence from the JCTC and the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, the only response received was “We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated September 24, 2014 in which you have raised concerns regarding United Way accepting funds from the tobacco industry. The matter has been brought to the attention of our Board and your concerns have been noted.”

The Heart Foundation also wrote to the Chair of CVSS. Although a more positive response was received stating that consideration could be given to reviewing the criteria for accepting funds at UWJ, to date there has been no change in policy. It is noteworthy that at a celebratory function held in January 2015 by Carreras Ltd (BAT) to honour its CEO for being awarded  “Top CEO for 2014”  by Business Suite magazine , the Chairman of UWJ was present and gave the vote of thanks at the function.

The UWJ’s mission on its website is “to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good”. The website further states that “The United Way of Jamaica envisions a society where individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, financial stability and healthy living”. Accepting funds from the tobacco industry is not in keeping with United Way’s vision. Despite this, the United Way has accepted funding from the tobacco industry in other countries. It seems that there is no policy against accepting donations from this source. Altria’s 2012 reporting of Recipients of Charitable Contributions from Altria Family of Companies (USA), listed 11 United Way individual organizations that benefitted from donations. Total donations to charitable institutions reported were US$40.8 million.

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica has been a member of CVSS for over 40 years. It has previously written about the problem of United Way accepting donations (see herehere and here). In view of the current situation, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica has suspended its membership as of April 30, 2015. The Heart Foundation of Jamaica hopes that one day there will be a review in the UWJ/CVSS policy such that the HFJ can reinstate its membership. The matter of United Way accepting funds from the tobacco industry globally is an issue which deserves further investigation and exposure.

The European Tobacco Products Directive and the Tobacco Industry

26 Feb, 15 | by Becky Freeman, Web Editor

Listen to this BMJ talk medicine TC podcast discussion with Silvy Peeters, University of Bath, about her paper:

The Revision of the 2014 European Tobacco Products Directive: An Analysis of the Tobacco Industry’s Attempts to ‘break the health silo’

The full paper is also freely available to all as an open access publication.

https://soundcloud.com/bmjpodcasts/the-2014-european-tobacco-products-directive-and-the-industrys-attempts-to-break-the-health-silo?in=bmjpodcasts/sets/tc-podcast

New Zealand: Dirty Politics raises conflict of interest concerns

2 Oct, 14 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Nathan Cowie, MPH.
Cowie Research and Communications

Disclosure: The author has previously undertaken paid employment for Centre for Tobacco Control Research, University of Auckland, and Action on Smoking and Health New Zealand.

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager released a book in August 2014 on the seamier side of New Zealand politics. Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment is based on the hacked (and subsequently leaked to Hager) emails and Facebook messages of Cameron Slater, who runs the right wing Whale Oil Beef Hooked blog website, and other figures related to the currently governing National party.

One such figure is public relations consultant and former British American Tobacco (NZ) corporate affairs manager Carrick Graham. The book alleges that Graham fed Slater a large amount of material, often attacks on scientists and advocates in the public health field working on tobacco, alcohol and obesity issues. Slater would schedule the posts unedited according to Graham’s instructions and with no indication that an external party supplied the posts. For this service, it is alleged that Graham paid Slater NZD$6555 per month.

The book did not include direct evidence of Graham’s clients, however the correspondence between Slater and Graham does implicate Katherine Rich, who is both the chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council (FGC, representing companies selling alcohol, soft drinks, confectionery, tobacco), and a board member of the government’s Health Promotion Agency (HPA, informing health promoting policy and practice). A series of ‘hits’ was coordinated to defend the interests of FGC members:

Dirty politics extract 1 dirty politics extract 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Acting on behalf of the FGC, Rich has made public submissions to parliamentary committees and ministerial consultations opposed to tobacco control policies. In January 2011, the FGC opposed legislation to ban the retail display of tobacco products. In October 2012, March and May of 2014, her name was attached to submissions from the FGC opposing plain packaging of tobacco products. On each occasion, Rich deployed stock standard tobacco industry/front group arguments.

Rich is facing renewed criticism and questions of about conflict of interests between her industry role and her service on the HPA board from the Green, New Zealand First, and Labour parties. Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague has said that her role is no longer tenable “Katherine Rich, Carrick Graham and Cameron Slater have all been involved in a systematic undermining of health promotion in New Zealand. She cannot tenably remain on the board of that organisation.”

Dr Barrie Gordon, senior lecturer in health and physical education at Victoria University said that the government had been either naïve or staggeringly cynical when it appointed Ms Rich to the HPA board. “Now that it’s been exposed what she’s been up to, and the conflicts, I assume she will resign” he told Radio New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key was reluctant to say whether it was appropriate for Rich to receive public money through the HPA.   “I wouldn’t want to offer a view on it, unless I could see all the facts,” he said.

Health Minister Tony Ryall however told Radio New Zealand that he was confident Rich could manage any conflicts appropriately.

An Official Information Act request has recently been made by Stuart Yeates for conflict of interest statements from all HPA board members past and present. The response is due on or before 17 September 2014.

Concerns had been raised in the past by addiction specialist Professor Doug Sellman about the suitability of Rich to serve on the HPA board. Sellman was subsequently a frequent target of the Whaleoil blog.

The hacker Rawshark, who leaked the messages between Slater and others that form the basis of Dirty Politics had been leaking selected correspondence via the twitter account @Whaledump. Material released so far includes screenshots of correspondence between Rich, Graham, and Slater. While Rich does not directly implicate herself in the source material, there is substantial correspondence between Graham and Slater, with Graham coordinating the ‘hits’ labelled ‘KR’ for Katherine Rich, and in line with FGC interests. Other correspondence released includes Graham advising Slater of payment for $6,555, and a confidential proposal to FGC member Nestle from Graham for public relations services.

whaledump screenshot

 

 

 

 

 

The day after the release of the above material, Twitter suspended the @whaledump account. Slater confirmed he had made a complaint to Twitter about the @whaledump account, and would do so again if required. Hours later a new account (@whaledump2), and at least two false accounts, were created.

The relationship between Rich, Graham, and Slater is just one story continuing to unfold in a scandal that has upset a lot of interests, and already led to the resignation of a senior cabinet minister, just weeks before a general election. How the Dirty Politics affair will affect the tenability of Rich’s service on the HPA board, remains to be seen.

laking tweet

 

 

 

 

 

Food & Grocery Council submissions on tobacco control policies:

 Smoke-free Environments (Controls and Enforcement) Amendment Bill – 28 January 2011

Plain Packaging Consultation – Ministry of Health – 5 October 2012

 Smoke−free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill 2013 – 28 March 2014 

Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill -Introductory statement from Katherine Rich, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council – 20 May 2014

 

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