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Tobacco industry fight to undermine health initiatives uncovered

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 21 Oct 2010

The Australian Greens say a series of Freedom of Information requests made by as-yet unnamed tobacco companies indicates the industry is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to undermine a range of health initiatives.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens Health spokesperson, learned through Senate Estimates that tobacco companies had lodged 19 FOI requests to the Department of Health seeking very extensive information and internal documents going back almost twenty years.

“This demonstrates the lengths the tobacco industry will go to in order to continue selling their lethal product,” Senator Siewert said.

“The list of FOI requests clearly demonstrates the companies’ motives – opposing the plain packaging initiative, undermining the substantial work being done to reduce the impact of smoking, and distracting Departmental attention and resources to these very substantive requests.

“These requests seek information as far back as January 1992. The companies are seeking a staggering amount of information, which will in turn require a significant amount of resources to complete.

“The FOI system is an essential part of our democratic system, but the tobacco industry is abusing this system.

“International tobacco companies spent $5 million on advertising during the recent election campaign, using a front organisation - the Alliance of Australian Retailers - in an attempt to prevent the introduction of plain packaging laws.

“These FOI requests are being used in a way which is ultimately detrimental to public health. Tobacco companies are looking for anything which can undermine the work of the Preventative Health Taskforce and derail plans to introduce plain cigarette packets.

“They show that the tobacco industry will use every possible tactic to prevent action that can reduce smoking – which remains our largest preventable cause of death and disease,” concluded Senator Siewert.

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