Philip Morris lobbying on e-cigarettes hidden from Australian public
The Transparency Project Australia news Philip Morris lobbying on e-cigarettes hidden from Australian public
Tobacco giant not required to register as lobbyist because it uses own staff rather than third-party consultants
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Tobacco giant Philip Morris International has been lobbying federal government MPs to overturn Australiaâs ban on vaping, but its efforts remain hidden from public view due to fundamental flaws in the lobbyist oversight regime.
Philip Morris, owner of six of the worldâs 15 biggest cigarette brands, is in the midst of a significant push to grow global sales of its vaping products, predicting they will bring in $17bn to $19bn by 2025, roughly 42% of its total revenue.
But the companyâs plan has been hampered in Australia by the federal governmentâs effective ban on nicotine e-cigarettes.
Guardian Australia understands Philip Morris has been seeking meetings with Coalition MPs as part of its bid to overturn the vaping ban. Some within government have refused to meet with the company.Corporate sponsorship diverts research and distorts public policy, report finds Read more
At the same time, Philip Morris has placed prominent ads on page three of both the Australian and the Australian Financial Review, calling for staff to help it achieve a âfuture without cigarettesâ a nd a âsmoke-free Australiaâ. Tobacco advertisements are banned under Australian law, but Philip Morris appears to have relied on an exemption allowing job ads.
In a statement, Philip Morris Australia confirmed it was engaging with âa wide range of stakeholders, including government officials across various political partiesâ on various issues, including the vaping ban. It said it was seeking to discuss âwhy the millions of Australians who smoke deserve access to better alternatives than cigarettesâ.
The fact that Philip Morris is attempting to lobby politicians has been completely hidden from the general public. Philip Morris appears nowhere on Australiaâs lobbyist register â" the publicâs only window into the world of lobbying â" because of fundamental flaws with the system. Australia does not require companies such as Philip Morris to register if they use people from within their own company to lobby government.
Only third-party lobbyists â" consultants who lobby government on behalf of a private interest â" are required to declare themselves and their clients to the public.
Philip Morrisâs managing director, Tammy Chan, said the company directly engaged with government officials. She said Philip Morris was not required to list itself on the lobbyist register.
G uardian Australia understands the company also engages former senior government officials, including one who is a registered lobbyist for other companies.Coalition's changes to finance laws could be a 'dreadful step backwards' Read more
But Chan said such individuals were providing advice only, not lobbying on the companyâs behalf.
âThere is therefore no requirement to register on the federal Register of Lobbyists,â she said.
The Coalition last month agreed to set up an independent inquiry into the health impacts of nicotine e-cigarettes, following a concerted push to overturn the ban from within its own ranks.
The office of the health minister, Greg Hunt, said he had not met with Philip Morris on the vaping ban.
It is legal in Australia to buy vaping devices. But nicotine is classed as a poison and it is generally not legal to possess, use, or sell devices containing the chemical.
The Therapeutic Goods A dministration rejected a bid to exempt nicotine as a dangerous poison last year, and the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport found earlier this year that the regulatory framework was suitable, and more research on e-cigarettes was needed.
A spokesman said Hunt âstrongly supportsâ the TGAâs current position on the sale of nicotine used in e-cigarettes.
âThe overwhelming medical advice and evidence is that itâs likely to lead to the uptake of smoking and we cannot support that,â the spokesman said.
âThis is the view of the TGA, Australiaâs chief medical officer, chief health officers from all Australian states and territories and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).â
Proponents of e-cigarettes argue they are a less harmful alternative to standard combustible cigarettes and can be used as a quitting aid. Drug law reform advocate Alex Wodak said Australiaâs smoking rates had flatlined in recent years, and increased slightly in NSW.
He said nations such as Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, where vaping was allowed, were seeing continued reductions in their smoking rates.
âEverywhere where tobacco harm reduction is taken seriously, and where reduced risk products have been made available and itâs being made easy for people to obtain, smoking rates have fallen more rapidly than they ever have before,â Wodak told Guardian Australia.
But both the NHMRC and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners say the effects of e-cigarettes are not yet fully known.
âElectronic cigarettes â¦ are often marketed as a method to assist smokers to quit, or as a âsafe alternativeâ to conventional tobacco cigarettes,â the NHMRC said in a statement last year. âHowever, there is currently insufficient evidence to support claims that e-cigarettes are safe and further research is needed to enable the long-term safety, quality and e fficacy of e-cigarettes to be assessed.â
The Australian Medical Association has also warned against legalising vaping bans. The AMA has warned e-cigarettes were being âaggressivelyâ pushed by tobacco companies to maintain or establish a nicotine addiction in users.
â¢ This reporting is supported by the Susan McKinnon Foundation through the Guardian Civic Journalism TrustTopics
- Australia news
- The Transparency Project
- Tobacco industry
- Philip Morris International
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