Tobacco control advocates' suspicions have been confirmed as a recent investigation has revealed that the NZ Taxpayers’ Union accepted funding from British American Tobacco (BAT). In an investigation into the ties between “free-market think tanks” and the tobacco industry, right-wing lobbying group, the NZ Taxpayers’ Union, was identified as being supported by multinational firm British American Tobacco.

Hāpai te Hauora has a long history of challenging this organisation who has railed against cigarette tax increases and plain packaging laws in New Zealand. In a 2016 Radio Waatea panel debate, former Hāpai te Hauora Tobacco Control manager, Zoe Hawke, challenged NZ Taxpayers’ Union CEO, Jordan Williams’ stance on forgoing tax increases.

Current Hāpai Tobacco Control manager, Mihi Blair, states that this is predictable behaviour from tobacco companies, who continue to attempt to create divisions among those who are actually working towards eliminating smoking-related harm: “I should think the NZ Taxpayer’s Union will have their tail between their legs. This completely undermines their credibility, especially with a motto like “lower tax, less waste, more transparency. This is the sort of behaviour we expect from Big Tobacco - trying to find puppets to advance their interests."

Recycled arguments about who to trust in the smokefree sector and who researchers should accept funding from can weaken the sector’s efforts, create suspicion on who should be believed and therefore present further opportunities to promote the tobacco industry agenda.

Blair continues, “This ‘divide and conquer’ strategy is one with which we are all too familiar. But behind those who fall for industry tactics, there remains a group all the more resilient, persistent and doggedly committed to making Aotearoa smoke-free”.