Trying to suppress free speech

October 26th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Bean Heather at Stuff reports:

A giant is being accused of illegally advertising cigarettes under the guise of a “public awareness campaign”.

The Health Ministry has received 14 complaints against British American Tobacco New Zealand’s “agree/disagree” campaign opposing .

The complainants say the company’s campaign – which has included television, radio and print ads – breaches the tobacco advertising ban.

But the ministry has disagreed, with chief legal adviser Phil Knipe claiming that there were “insufficient grounds to support enforcement action at this time”.

Of course the complaints went nowhere. The ban on advertising of tobacco is designed to stop marketing of cigarettes – not designed to stop a company from voicing its opinion on a regulatory issue. I suspect those who complained know that.

As it happens I think the BAT campaign is stupid, and in fact likely to be counter-productive to their cause. So don’t think I am defending the campaign. But BAT have the right to voice their concerns over a proposed law.

The name of the company is very different to the name of a cigarette brand. I doubt 99% of those who smoke a BAT cigarette know whom BAT is.

Advertising Standards Authority chief executive Hilary Souter said she had also received complaints calling the campaign illegal, all of which had been referred to the ministry.

“Whether or not the ad is a tobacco ad is outside our mandate,” she said.

On Friday, the authority also dismissed five complaints against British American Tobacco (BAT) regarding other aspects of its campaign. Most complainants felt the campaign was misleading, confusing facts with opinions.

One complainant called it “an attack on the sovereignty of political discourse in New Zealand”.

Actually those trying to suppress the rights of are the real attack on the sovereignty of political discourse.

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18 Responses to “Trying to suppress free speech”

  1. All_on_Red (1,640 comments) says:

    Ha, the strategy of “progressives” and “socialists” has always been;
    1. Shut up
    2. Shut up
    3. Shut up
    And the Mushroom Media (as in feed you bullshit and keep you in the dark) are complicit.

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  2. emmess (1,432 comments) says:

    In the ad, it says ‘we agree tobacco is harmful’
    If they are trying to sell tobacco, who are the ‘marketing geniuses’ who included that line?

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  3. eszett (2,426 comments) says:

    What exactly is the issue here?

    BAT is using advertising space to bring it’s message across and therefore is subject to advertising standards like every other ad.
    People have the right to complain, the Advertising Standards Authority can evaluate them and make a judgement. Like with the majority of complaints they have been dismissed.

    So we have a system working as designed.

    I don’t see why the BAT ads should be treated any different then say ads for tampons. People get upset about all sort of things in ads, they have an avenue to channel those complaints and have done so. You may disagree with their opinions ( and I disagree with them in this case as well), but shouldn’t they too have a right to voice them?

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  4. Psycho Milt (2,419 comments) says:

    As it happens I think the BAT campaign is stupid, and in fact likely to be counter-productive to their cause.

    The ads seem stupid and pointless. I’ve assumed the reasoning behind them is not that the ads will directly shape public opinion, but that they provide a perfect opportunity to hand shitloads of cash to media companies, which do directly shape public opinion.

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  5. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    eszett – I totally agree, but DPF loves a slogan driven headline and ‘Advertising Standards Authority Follows Process’ doesn’t have the same impact as ‘Trying to Suppress Free Speech’.

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  6. speters (108 comments) says:

    What eszett said.

    I agree the complaints should be rejected, and they have been. Seems a bit silly to get upset about people using the ASA complaint system as it is intended to be used – every complaint to the ASA is “trying to suppress free speech” to some extent.

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  7. KH (695 comments) says:

    I agree with DPF that the adds are stupid.
    But I disagree with him that the complaints are the “real attack on the sovereignty of political discourse”
    Tobacco Companies will do whatever they can to achieve their end. As will the complainers.
    That they will all get ‘down and dirty’ is in fact political discourse.
    Only problem I have with the whole thing is how boring both sides are.

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  8. Yvette (2,842 comments) says:

    Tobacco Companies will do whatever they can to achieve their end.

    And that end is not to altruistically protect us from plain packaging of wine.
    It is to sell tobacco products unhindered by the restriction of plain packaging in their case.
    The ads are to sell cigarettes.

    At the same time the faceless crude animation and discordant music track is very unappealing and probably damages their image and cause. Their own message, that tobacco is harmful, may hopefully be used against them later.

    Let them go for it.

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  9. ChardonnayGuy (1,209 comments) says:

    On the contrary, I’m sure that the BAT campaign against plain packaging wasn’t ‘free’ speech at all. I’m sure that whoever came up with the concepts in those advertisements were quite well paid ;)

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  10. rolla_fxgt (311 comments) says:

    I think its stupid people complain about BAT and their ads, its their money, if they want to waste it then good on them.
    That said, I do think they raise a good point about what might be next for plain packaging. Or potential tit for tat plain packaging from other countries.
    I can’t see why the govt wants to buy into a costly long and drawn out fight over plain packaging with a far from certain outcome, when there are far easier, and far more successful options out there.

    Why not just do the sensible thing, and raise taxes on ciggarettes 50% in one hit, and schedule large tax increases on them regularly, not the small once the Maori party have got. Also make a new tax rate, or special tax on tobacco producers. Economics solves most problems in a cleaner and less beuracratic way than stupid laws will ever do.
    Another option, and the only one I’d go for in terms of a beuracratic one, would be to ban bennifiaries from purchasing cigarettes, and make it a condition of recpiept of benefit. There’s no need for them to need to smoke, and there’s no financial cost to them for the quit smoking treatements, as the taxpayer picks up that bill.

    If people want to smoke then thats fine let them, but they have to pay for the privilage to do so. And if they happen to be poor, then to bad, its their choice to smoke, they need to find the way to either quit, or make the extra money to afford the cigarettes.

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  11. Mark (496 comments) says:

    I actual like the ads, as they are pointing out the changes are limiting their rights to free speech.

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  12. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    I like the ads as well. I hate smokers but I defend their right to smoke if they want to. What BAT point out as well is the real possibility that once the do gooders have suppressed all sales of fags, they could then turn their attention to alcohol sales/packaging/my freedom of choice to drink where I want, when I want. That would bring anarchy and lynchings of said sticky beaks.

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  13. graham (2,346 comments) says:

    All I’ll say is, my BAT shares are still looking not too bad, thank you! :)

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  14. Viking2 (11,541 comments) says:

    More batshit stupid rules from the batshit socialists who want to run our lives.

    subject to advertising standards

    Its all in the eye of the beholder. Don’t like adverts don’t fucking read or listen.

    FFS what does this all cost the taxpayer to have these bearded weirded people overseeing our lives.

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  15. ChardonnayGuy (1,209 comments) says:

    You know, this would all be far more convincing if I didn’t suspect that there weren’t at least some kneejerk objectivist libertarian ideologues out there puffing away like chimneys because Dear Ayn Herself Was A Chain Smoker and they regard Her Word as Holy Writ. WTF, though, it’s a free country. People are entitled to lionise badly written turgid agit prop prose if they want.

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  16. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    At this point I think it would be refreshing to consider banksy’s manifesto on advertising:

    People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are ‘The Advertisers’ and they are laughing at you.

    You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

    Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

    You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs’

    Possibly needs to be in the “highlight ridiculous advert complaints” thread also…

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  17. Andrei (2,668 comments) says:

    If people want to smoke then thats fine let them, but they have to pay for the privilage to do so. And if they happen to be poor, then to bad, its their choice to smoke, they need to find the way to either quit, or make the extra money to afford the cigarettes.

    You were on the money in the first bit then went off the rails with your support for taxing them out of the price range for the poor.

    God save us from socialists who pretend to care for the poor and the marginalized but really want to boss them around and control their lives – thoroughly unpleasant people.

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  18. ChardonnayGuy (1,209 comments) says:

    And unfortunately, being irritated or aesthetic dodgitude are not grounds in or of themselves to complain to the ASA. Otherwise that irritating small boy and his infernal turtle would have long since disappeared from our screens, as would BioMag vendors…

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