Breaking The Habit: Imperial Tobacco comes clean, kind of

[UPDATE: In case you really don’t feel like reading today, I’ll be discussing the ACR and newsblogging in general with Colin Peacock on Radio NZ’s Mediawatch this weekend. Tune in 9am or 10pm Sunday or look for the podcast here]

“The association does not have a relationship with tobacco companies, and nor did Stay Displays as far as I’m aware.” – Denielle Boulieris, Association of Community Retailers

“As far as I am aware, the Association does not get any funding from Imperial Tobacco. Glenn might with his hats; he might get paid by Imperial Tobacco, but that’s his business” – Richard Green, Association of Community Retailers

“Imperial Tobacco has not funded, or directly funded, the ACR” – Glenn Innwood, Omeka Communications

But it turns out Imperial Tobacco finally broke its silence at last fortnight’s Maori Affairs Select Committee hearing. Michael Colhoun of ASH and Colin Peacock of Mediawatch were good enough to nab me a partial transcript of Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway grilling Tony Meirs, Imperial Tobacco’s NZ sales and marketing director:

Lees-Galloway: Could you give us a little bit more detail about your relationship to the Association of Community Retailers?

Meirs: The issue here is that small retailers are concerned that some of the regulations being considered would damage the viability of their business.  Retailers want to speak out to protect their livelihood, and we support retailers in that aim.  So we have provided PR resource through Omeka Public Relations company to help small retailers develop the voice that they need to protect their business from unnecessary regulation.

Lees-Galloway: Aye?

Meirs: To protect their business from unnecessary regulation. Actually we’re not talking about anything else but cigarette sales, we’re talking about the ability to keep cigarettes in the carousels –

Lees-Galloway: What else has the ACR actually lobbied, what other issues has the ACR engaged in, or is their only issue tobacco displays and tobacco products?

Meirs: My understanding is that they are concerned with all the issues that effect small retailers, and we support them in that aim.  Why shouldn’t they have a voice to speak out and toprotect their businesses?  It’s entirely right that they can put the contra argument, and I’m proud to support those retailers.

Lees-Galloway: Would you support health promoters who want to put up the counter argument, because it’s entirely right that they get the opportunity to do that?

Meirs: I think it’s entirely right that they get the opportunity to put their argument forward.

Lees-Galloway: Would you support them to do that, if someone made the approach, do you think you’d be able to support them?

Meirs: It would be hypocritical and wrong to take a position on both sides.

Lees-Galloway: What is the extent of, what’s the value of your support of ACR?

Meirs: The value is through providing PR resource to help them develop the voice they need to protect their business.

Lees-Galloway: Well what’s that value to them, how much would they have to spend to get the same resource that you’re providing them?

Meirs: I don’t know.

Lees-Galloway: And this is purely out of the interest of promoting personal choice and freedom, and supporting the retailers?  There’s no benefit for you at all?

Meirs: This is our way of helping those retailers protect their business against unnecessary regulations that will be ineffective.  We’re helping them to develop a voice.

Lees-Galloway: Do you think that if the ACR was successful in achieving its aims, that that would be beneficial to your company?

Meirs: Well through the questions that I’ve answered so far I’ve been clear about where we stand.  I don’t support the banning of displays for the reasons that I’ve said.

Lees-Galloway: You’ve said that you don’t support various things because you think they would do no good.  But do you think your company would be better off if ACR achieved its aims?

Meirs: Competition would remain in the industry and I’m for that, I’m for competition.  Adult smokers would still be able to make a choice to select from products and brands available, and I’m for that.

Lees-Galloway: Would your company be any better off if the ACR achieved its aims?

Meirs: In what sense?

Lees-Galloway: Would it be financially better off?

Meirs: I can’t say that, I don’t know, because whether Imperial Tobacco would be financially better off or not depends on how we compete in the marketplace, how we compete for adult smokers.  So it’s just, the 2 just aren’t linked.  I support the position of those retailers wanting to develop a voice, wanting to put their argument forward to protect their businesses from unnecessary regulation.

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3 Comments on “Breaking The Habit: Imperial Tobacco comes clean, kind of”

  1. al says:

    Good work, Rory. Credit for doing exactly what a good reporter is supposed to – make sure that issues such as this are before the public, and ensuring that big business is accountable. Good comment on Mediawatch too, including on how bloggers and mainstream journalists could legitimately feed on each other.

  2. Patrick says:

    re Glenn Inwood,ACR and whalers
    A quick google raises many questions about how PR works in NZ.

    Some questions:

    At the website of Mr Inwood’s news release distribution business, Spin It Wide we learn that he thought of the business concept while at a conference in Bangkok in 2004. Could he confirm that he was at the CITES conference representing whaling interests?
    (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species [12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties CITES, Bangkok, Thailand, October 2004)

    What is the link between NZ fishing company Sealords and Japanese whalers Nissui? Did Nissui sell it’s half share in Sealords to the Japanese govt to avoid a consumer boycott?

    Did Inwood pose as working for NZ govt when chartering Australian spy flights?
    (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/06/2786632.htm)

    Is Inwood’s incompetence and blundering an asset to the anti-whaling movement?
    (http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/editorial-090209-1.html)

    references:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Glenn_Inwood
    http://spinitwide.com/our-story
    http://www.wiserearth.org/organization/view/f4a87ed7f9d7227ac334746e98d660b3

  3. […] of Community Retailers – leading Imperial Tobacco to confess before a select committee that they had bankrolled the entire PR operation, courtesy of their long-time spin doctor Glenn […]


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