Tobacco giant backs retail protest

A lobby group of small retailers protesting the Government’s tobacco price hike is receiving public relations support from Imperial Tobacco, the tobacco giant told a select committee last week.

The Association of Community Retailers (ACR), set up late last month, had earlier rejected suggestions it was backed by tobacco cash and said it was entirely funded from its members.

The ACR shared a postal address with Omeka Public Relations, whose managing director, Glenn Inwood, also represented Imperial Tobacco and Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research through another PR company, blogger Keith Ng revealed.

Mr Inwood said earlier this month the ACR received no funding from tobacco companies or himself but purely from members’ subscriptions.

“It’s running off the smell of an oily rag.”

One of the ACR’s coordinators, Denielle Boulieris, told another blogger, Rory McKinnon, earlier this month that the association does not have a relationship with tobacco companies.

But Imperial Tobacco’s New Zealand sales and marketing director, Tony Meirs, last week told a Maori Affairs select committee the company was providing the ACR with public relations resources through Omeka Public Relations.

Mr Meirs told the select committee the company wanted to support retailers in speaking out about regulations that would damage their business viability, according to a transcript provided to Mr McKinnon.

“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,” Mr Meirs said.

He told the select committee he did not know the value of the public relations support Imperial Tobacco was providing, and was unable to say whether Imperial Tobacco would be better off if the ACR achieved its aims.

“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 two just aren’t linked,” he said.

“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.”

ACR founding member Richard Green, who ran a tobacconist business in Palmerston North, told NZPA earlier this month the ACR grew out of the former Stay Displays coalition of retailers, a coalition that formed to fight a proposed ban on displaying tobacco products for sale.

ACR would speak for retailers on a wider range of subjects affecting retailers, such as security, sale of alcohol and confectionary, and was set up with the help of Mr Inwood, who had also worked on the Stay Displays campaign.

Mr Green said the sole funding for the ACR so far came from its members. It had employed two part time coordinators but it had yet to figure out how they would be funded, as it was still early days.

source: stuff.co.nz

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