Alf has always believed that he (or she) who pays the piper calls the tune.
When you have heard the tune played, but don’t know who paid the piper – does it matter much?
This and are lofty questions are raised by a Radio New Zealand report based on the latest wailings of the anti-smoking group, ASH.
ASH is making a fuss about (they allege) a front organisation being set up for tobacco interests to oppose the raising of tobacco prices through higher taxation.
Obviously this new outfit can’t count itself a roaring success so far, because Parliament the other day passed legislation to raise tobacco prices through higher taxation.
The passage of this legislation, of course, amounts to a public relations success for those of us (including Alf) who reckon ours would be a much healthier country if smokers gave up their habit.
Regardless of this success, ASH seems to be highly agitated by the activities of an outfit called the Association of Community Retailers.
ACR was established last month and ASH says it works from the same offices as a Wellington public relations consultant who represents Imperial Tobacco.
Maybe it does.
Alf – frankly – couldn’t give a damn.
Moreover, he would like to think ASH has more important things to worry about.
ASH director Ben Youdan says the association supports the views of tobacco companies and should reveal its funding sources.
Imperial Tobacco has yet to comment, but the PR consultant, Glenn Inwood, denies the company is funding the retailers association.
He says he pays the association’s costs, which will eventually be covered by membership fees.
And an association spokesperson, Richard Green, says to his knowledge, the group is not funded by the tobacco firm.
Alf would like to see the full client list of this Inwood bloke, who likes to go out to bat for clients with serious image problems.
For example, he has done a grand job doing his PR thing on behalf of Japanese whalers (who must kill a few whales in the interests of science).
It’s fair to point out at this juncture, therefore, that maybe Japanese whaling interests in effect have funded the new pro-tobacco lobby, by paying Inwood generously enough to enable him to do what he is now doing.
Certainly the new lobby organisation has been looking for funds, because:
Mr Green says he asked Mr Inwood to approach another company, British American Tobacco, for funding, but says the request was declined.
An outfit like ASH seems to have no great problems raising money.
We taxpayers toss it a big chunk of readies to enable it to develop community-led initiatives such as No Smoking Day and smokefree Te Matatini, and working with a wider range of organisations to increase their participation in tobacco control via training, media support and technical expertise on tobacco issues.
Alf learns this from their annual report, which says ASH receives funding via a combination of Ministry of Health and research contracts, membership fees and donations from the public and organisations.
ASH’s total income in 2008/09 was $882,372.
Contracts generated $794,226 of this dosh while its members coughed up a meagre $4098.
It paid salaries of $411,726.
So in effect, smokers pay taxes, a portion of which goes to the Ministry of Health, which gives some to ASH, which lobbies hard (and succeeds) to have the taxes on tobacco increased so smokers will be burned in the pocket.
What was that about he (and she) who pays the piper…????