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Otago experts question use of consultants who worked for tobacco industry in NZ tobacco review

Wellington campus

Friday, 24 August 2018

Associate Professor George Thomson image
Associate Professor George Thomson

University of Otago researchers believe Government actions may be inconsistent with its tobacco treaty obligations by employing a consulting firm that has worked globally for the tobacco industry, to advise on tobacco taxation.

In a blog published in international journal Tobacco Control today, Associate Professor George Thomson and Louise Delany from the Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, outline their concerns about the Government employing EY (formerly Ernst & Young) to review tobacco tax policy.

New Zealand is a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which requires signatory countries to be conscious of the tobacco industry’s practice of using individuals, groups or organisations to take action to further the interests of the tobacco industry.

Louise Delany image
Louise Delany

The public health experts give examples where EY has provided services to the tobacco industry, including writing a 2010 report on New Zealand tobacco for British American Tobacco.

Associate Professor George Thomson says a group of researchers had raised concerns with the Associate Minister of Health, Jenny Salesa, who replied that official advice to her was that no “actual conflict of interest exists”.

The Ministry of Health later posted a statement from EY on its website stating the “Oceania Partnership” of EY had decided to “limit the services we provide to the tobacco industry”.

“EY appears to be asking us to accept that the Oceania partnership of EY will maintain a relationship to the tobacco industry that differs from that of the rest of EY,” Associate Professor Thomson says.

“We are saying that with the best intentions, EY will find it difficult to separate its tobacco-friendly work from the Oceania Partnership.”

“Is this episode a case of: ‘I talked to the fox who wanted to guard the hen house, and the fox reassured me that they are now vegetarian?” the public health experts write in their blog.

They recommend the Government seeks advice from the secretariat to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to ensure their interpretation of the framework aligns with World Health Organization expectations.

A link to the article by the University of Otago researchers is available online at the international journal Tobacco Control

For further information, contact:

Associate Professor George Thomson
Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
Email george.thomson@otago.ac.nz

Louise Delany
Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
Email louise.delany@otago.ac.nz

Liane Topham-Kindley
Senior Communications Adviser
Tel 03 479 9065
Mob 021 279 9065
Email liane.topham-kindley@otago.ac.nz

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