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New Zealand

New Zealand to have world’s first smoke-free military by 2020

31 May, 17 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

New Zealand has kicked off World No Tobacco Day by announcing a plan for its defence force to become the world’s first smoke-free military by 2020.

Initiatives to achieve the goal include banning the sale of cigarettes on camps and bases and making NZ defence force housing smokefree. It will also evolve camps and bases into smokefree environments, and continue to promote and support smoking cessation and the benefits of a smokefree NZ defence force.

The plan was announced at an event hosted by ASH New Zealand in Parliament to mark World No Tobacco Day. ASH Chair, Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole welcomed the plan. “This is a huge milestone, the New Zealand Defence Force is one of the largest employers in New Zealand with over 14,000 personnel, and the biggest Government department to go smokefree.”

The 2020 target date is five years ahead of the New Zealand government’s Smoke Free 2025 goal, which aims to reduce adult daily smoking prevalence to below 5%.

“ASH applauds the NZDF, not just for their commitment to the 2025 goal, but for showing the leadership to beat the goal by five years. We hope this decisive action can be an example to other government agencies and major employers of the type of leadership needed to reach Smokefree 2025” Beaglehole added.

While the 2020 goal is a welcome step forward, Beaglehole noted “Progress towards the Government’s smoke free 2025 goal is far too slow, especially for Maori and Pacifica, and poor people generally. There are also simple measures the government can introduce, such as increasing targeted mass and social media campaigns. ASH is committing our resources to supporting all policymakers to set a strong, evidence based roadmap to get us to Smokefree 2025”.

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.


New Zealand: no more ‘silent salesman’ – cigarette plain packaging passed

9 Sep, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

On 8 September, New Zealand joined a growing international move to outlaw the tobacco industry’s ‘silent salesman’ when it became the latest country to introduce cigarette plain packaging.

The legislation – the Smoke-Free Environments (Tobacco Standardised Packaging) Amendment Bill was passed on its third and final reading in the New Zealand parliament with 108 votes in favour, 13 against.

The move has been welcomed by health experts as a an important measure towards achieving the goal of Smokefree 2025. Professor Janet Hoek, co-director of  research group Aspire 2025 said: “Standardised packaging is a pivotal measure in the road to Smokefree 2025. It transforms tobacco packaging from a highly effective marketing tool, particularly for youth and young adults, to a plain and unattractive object.  For decades, tobacco companies have used skilfully designed packaging to help attract the next generation of smokers and the government has rightly ended this practice.”

Professor Hoek has led several studies on cigarette plain packaging, as well as an innovative study on the potential for dissuasive cigarette sticks.

Australia, the United Kingdom and France have already introduced plain packaging, while several other countries have either legislated or are preparing to legislate for them, in line with guidelines for implementation of Articles 11 and 13 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

New Zealand study: Dissuasive cigarette sticks – the next step in standardised (‘plain’) packaging?

1 Apr, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor


A study published by Tobacco Control in December 2015 by a team of New Zealand and Australian researchers explored extending the concept of plain packaging one step further – to the cigarette stick itself. New Zealand is moving towards introducing plain packaging; incorporating dissuasive cigarette sticks would put it at the forefront of innovative tobacco control measures.

The study authors explain more in a blog published by Aspire 2025 and reproduced here with permission:

As New Zealand moves towards legislating for plain packaging of cigarettes, the Government should consider measures that extend and improve upon Australia’s model, ASPIRE2025 researchers believe.

In this study, based on an online survey of 313 New Zealand smokers, our researchers and colleagues in Australia have found that cigarette sticks with printed health warnings or unattractive colours could enhance the effects of plain packaging and further reduce the appeal smoking has to young people.

Professor Janet Hoek says the team tested reactions to images of four cigarette sticks that either featured printed warnings or had unattractive colours, such as yellow-brown and green.

“We found that smokers were significantly less likely to choose the test sticks and found all significantly less appealing than the status quo — a white cigarette with a brown filter tip,” she says.

A “minutes of life lost” graphic that went from one minute near the tip up to 15 near the butt had the strongest aversive effect relative to the other sticks tested.

“Requiring cigarette sticks and rolling paper to feature such a graphic, or to be produced in dissuasive colours, would likely increase the impact plain packaging will have on those who smoke, while also deterring others from taking up smoking,” Professor Hoek says.

View a short video about this research here:

Study abstract:
Standardised (or ‘plain’) packaging has reduced the appeal of smoking by removing imagery that smokers use to affiliate themselves with the brand they smoke. We examined whether changing the appearance of cigarette sticks could further denormalise smoking and enhance the negative impact of standardised packaging.

We conducted an online study of 313 New Zealand smokers who comprised a Best–Worst Choice experiment and a rating task. The Best–Worst experiment used a 2×3×3×6 orthogonal design to test the following attributes: on-pack warning message, branding level, warning size and stick appearance.

We identified three segments whose members’ choice patterns were strongly influenced by the stick design, warning theme and size, and warning theme, respectively. Each of the dissuasive sticks tested was less preferred and rated as less appealing than the most common stick in use; a ‘minutes of life lost’ stick was the most aversive of the stimuli tested.

Dissuasive sticks could enhance the effect of standardised packaging, particularly among older smokers who are often more heavily addicted and resistant to change. Countries introducing standardised packaging legislation should take the opportunity to denormalise the appearance of cigarette sticks, in addition to removing external tobacco branding from packs and increasing the warning size.

Hoek, J., Gendall, P., Eckert, C., & Louviere, J. (2015). Dissuasive cigarette sticks: the next step in standardised (‘plain’) packaging?. Tobacco control, tobaccocontrol-2015. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2015-052533

For more information, contact:
Professor Janet Hoek
University of Otago

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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