ASH anti-smoking “lobby group” and registered charity – attacks Tobacco Industry

The anti-smoking lobby group ASH New Zealand Inc. (“ASH”), a registered charity with the Charities Commission, has vowed to bring the Tobacco Industry “out of the shadows”  by “holding them to account”.  ASH [“Action on Smoking and Health”] – will continue its “attack” on the industry’s appalling record of having been responsible for causing the deaths of about 5,000New Zealanders per year, and expose how some of the industry’s sales reps are “targetting” many young vulnerable Maori and Polynesian girls. It also intends to continue its vigorous campaign against NZ retailers who it accuses of deliberately “enticing” children and young persons into taking up smoking through their immoral retail advertising of the “dangerous, deadly and addictive” product – tobacco.

ASH lobby group spokesperson Mr Ben Youdan has revealed in an interview on TVNZ that in response to anti-smoking lobby groups’ “targetting” of the Tobacco Industry, the industry has  issued “threats” of “law suits” with more anticipated – to be expected he implied – from an industry that “won’t take it [their attacks] lying down”. Attacks on the industry by lobby groups – even if they are registered charities and receive extensive government funding, as does charity-lobby group ASH ($592,892 in 2010/11: see below), are not taken kindly by Tobacco industry barons whose livelihoods are seen to be under threat from the zealous lobbyists. [Read more…]

ASH New Zealand Inc. – an effective charity active in political advocacy

ASH New Zealand Inc. is an incorporated society, a lobby group, and a registered charity with the Charities Commission (CC31354). ASH was registered as a charity on 30 June 2008.

Its stated “Mission” is “to improve the health and well being of all New Zealanders by eliminating disease and premature death due to tobacco” [Emphasis added]. Its very narrow focus on tobacco issues limits it as a charity to only engage in  activities in pursuit of promoting the adoption by the community of the Society’s particular point of view on the health issues of concern to the Society’s small number of members (the dangers of tobacco use). It seeks to focus attention on the harmful nature and consequences of tobacco use. The vast majority of New Zealanders do not smoke tobacco and probably have little knowledge of or interest in ASH’s narrow agenda.

In the financial year ending 30 June 2011, this lobby group received $592,892 in government funding and $38,400 from all other grants and sponsorship – a grand total of $631,292. It spent $475,936 on wages and salaries (employing 5  full-tme people and 2 part-timers): 66.9% of its total income of $711,101.

ASH ended its 2010/11 financial year with a deficit of $24,511 and liabilities of $96,510. It had additional income sources over the period of $40,908 (donations and membership fees). Its total expenditure was $735,612.

The ASH lobby group’s objects, taken from section 3.1 of its constitution, include:

3.1.1 To educate the public about the harmful effects of active and passive smoking on health.

3.1.2 To support and encourage relevant legislation for the benefit of the community e.g. the Smoke-free Environments Act, 1990.

3.1.3 To advocate for services to assist smokers to quit.

3.1.6. To do any other lawful acts incidental to these objects or to the progress or enhancement of the Society and its objects.

3.1.7 To use the funds of the Society to attain the objects of the Society….

Comments by SPCS

The Society fully supports the good work carried out by ASH New Zealand Inc.

Concerning Section 3.1 of ASH’s constitution it comments:

S. 3.1.1

This is a close parallel to one of the 7 objects of SPCS: S. 2(d) “To focus attention [via education and research  etc] on the harmful nature and consequences of sexual promiscuity, obscenity, pornography etc.

Critics of the two Societies – ASH and SPCS – might try to argue that because smoking, disseminating and watching hardcore pornography, engaging in promiscuity and using obsenities in a public place are all legal activities; these societies should be stripped of their charitable status because they are merely “promoting the adoption by the community of the particular points of view on moral/health issues of concern to the respective Societies.”

Such reasoning is fallacious. For example: Millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is spent each year to fund enforcement agencies seeking to safeguard society the public from the injurious impact of pornography and smoking. Using obscenities in a public to cause offence and the viewing of pornography on a work place computer are not legal activities. The injurious nature of such activities is now written into legislation.

 Section: 3.1.2.

This clearly allows ASH to lobby for legislative changes (“political advocacy”) and engage advocacy for current legislation it supports, both of which it does regularly. In contrast SPCS does not indulge in “political advocacy” despite accusations to the contrary, It does however seek “To foster public awareness on the benefits to social, economic and moral welfare of communiy standards.”

Secton 3.13:

Clearly allows ASH to strongly advocate for services to be provided by government to help people quit smoking. This means political advocacy and lobbying is allowed for under its “charitable” objects.

If SPCS had an equivalent statement, which it does NOT, relating to porn, imagine the outcry!

To advocate for services to assist those addicted to porn to quit and those hooked on a promiscuous lifestyle to learn how to show sexual restraint. !!!

Note: It is misleading to claim that smoking, promiscuity, and porn viewing are all LEGAL activities . They are NOT within certain contexts.

It is now politically correct to advocate for and enforce smoke free work places. But this is only a very recent development following the enactment of relevant legislation following years of lobbying by groups like ASH.

What if SPCS campaigned for porn free workplaces AND sought government funding for it !! ASH receives about $600,00 dollars from government to employ five full-time and two part-time staff working for the lobby group ASH.

Section 3.1.6

This means any incidental activities that are lawful and happen to advance ASH’s goals can be deemed as legitimate charitable acts: a blanket catch-all defence based on a catch-all objective.

Section 3.17

In February 2011 SPCS added an equivalent object – s. 2(g) – to its constitution. See www.societies.govt.nz  (Inc. Soc. No. 217833).

Conclusions

The government supports lobby group ASH New Zealand Inc. to the tune of about $600,000 per year – to pursue its [ASH’s] primary purpose of promoting the adoption by the community of the Society’s particular point of view on health issues (use of tobacco) of concern to the Society. Educating New Zealanders about the harmful nature of active and passive smoking on health has involved ASH in significant lobbying and political advocacy over the years leading to legislative changes.

For many New Zealanders in the Christian community in particular, the non-smoking message message advanced by ASH is in line with their values/moral viewpoint. Political advocacy plays a significsant part in all ASH activities as recognised in its objects.

Most of ASH’s gross income (i.e. 70%) for the financial year ending 30 June 2011 was spent on the wages and salaries of five full-time staff and two part-timers (total 234 hours per week).

The SPCS fully supports the good work carried out by this effective lobby group.