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Big tobacco buying influence through political donations

Posted 8 Jun, 2018

Public health should not be undermined by tobacco companies making political donations in an attempt to buy influence and increase profits, Quit Victoria says.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White welcomed this week’s report by the Senate Committee into the Political Influence of Donations, in particular recommendation 9, which would ban those in the tobacco industry from making donations to political parties, candidates and associated entities.

“Smoking kills more than 15,000 Australians each year, making it the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our country,” Dr White said.

“The industry’s objective is clear; oppose any government action that would stop kids becoming addicted to cigarettes and help people who smoke to quit. They will do anything to push—for profit— for products that kill two out of three long-term users in Australia.

“Tobacco smoking is such an enormous, global health issue that the World Health Organization created the first ever international framework to reduce the death and misery caused by cigarettes. Accepting political donations from the tobacco industry is completely at odds with this Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which Australia is a signatory.”

Dr White made the comments as new figures show Australian political parties have received $2.1 million in donations from Philip Morris Limited, and more than $2.06 million from British American Tobacco, over the past 18 years.

The figures are contained in an updated section of the resource Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues.

In 2016-17, Philip Morris donated $15,700 to the National Party and $20,000 to the Liberal Democratic Party. Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has been quoted as confirming that previous donations from Philip Morris had moved him “from being strongly opposed to totally opposed” to plain packaging of tobacco products.

The Australian Labor Party and Liberal Party of Australia no longer accept donations from tobacco companies, and the Greens have a long standing policy of not accepting tobacco company donations.

Dr White called for legislation to ban political parties from accepting donations from tobacco companies (including through third parties funded by tobacco companies) in order to protect democratic processes and prevent avoidable deaths due to smoking.

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, Cancer Council Victoria, the State Government of Victoria and the Heart Foundation.

Media release

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