On November 10, I received an invitation from British American Tobacco Australia to attend a “dialogue” on illegal tobacco. Minutes later, I emailed them advising:

As a matter of policy, I never agree to attend events or meetings organised by tobacco companies. There have been many instances over the years of tobacco companies or third parties retained by them seeking to use such meetings and the attendance of people representing health and other interest groups, to further agendas that I have no interest in supporting. I only attend meetings with tobacco company representation which are convened by government.

On 24 November, a colleague received the same invitation, this time dated 18 November, which named me as an invitee. When BAT sent this, they had known for 10 days that I had refused to meet with them, but was still circulating that I was invited, presumably in the hope of fooling a few innocents that I supported their transparent efforts to posture at being socially responsible.

In another incident, BAT’s Bede Fennell has recently been spraying a letter around local governments in Australia urging them to not ban smoking in al fresco (footpath and outdoor) dining areas. In the letter, they selectively quote an article of mine from an ABC website which I wrote to curb councils doing things like banning smoking in parks and other wide open spaces where there is no evidence of harm or inconvenience to others. In the article I also wrote:

I emphasise that I am very supportive of the prevention of smoking in crowded, confined outdoor settings such as sports stadia, in most outdoor dining sections of (particularly small) restaurants, and in unblocking the entrances to buildings by having smokers move further away. In outdoor stadia, the concentration of smokers and their sardine-can proximity to others can result in significant prolonged SHS exposure over many hours.

So here we have BAT knowing full well that I support bans on al fresco smoking, quoting me to imply that I’m on their side in opposing them. BAT is big on corporate social responsibility after its forced re-birthing in the face of the embarrassing revelations from 40 million plus pages of internal documents, now public. But when snakes shed their skins, there’s still a snake inside. This sort of pathetic misrepresentation shows nothing has changed.

Peter Fray

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