Questions over data and paid influencers used in tobacco-funded ad campaign

It's alleged that the tobacco industry is paying social media celebrities and media outlets in a suspected ploy to undermine government efforts to curb tobacco use in South Africa.

This is according to a report by the Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre.

The Tobacco Institute of South Africa (Tisa) has apparently paid for a social media campaign and a number of adverts.

In the campaign, Tisa argues that the government should prioritise the R7-billion lost in tax revenue due to illicit cigarettes.

This according to research commisioned by Tisa.

Read: Trouble at Sars has sparked a 20% drop in tobacco tax collection - analyst

The lobby group claims that VAT doesn’t have to increase if we take back the R7-billion, using the hashtag #TakeBackTheTax to promote the campaign.

Tisa represents tobacco farmers and multinationals such as Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco.

Bhekisisa journalist Joan van Dyk says Tisa has not been forthcoming about the data used to peddle its campaign.

The tobacco industry has been very iffy on giving us the data that backs up this research study, they haven't given it to any public health officials either.

Joan van Dyk, Journalist at Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre

So they are asking us to trust these numbers but they are not willing to give us the full report.

Joan van Dyk, Journalist at Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre

If you're not disclosing that you have been paid to punt this campaign with money from the tobacco industry, that's a problem.

Joan van Dyk, Journalist at Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre

They didn't want to tell us who else they are paying, and they have admitted to paying other people.

Joan van Dyk, Journalist at Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre

Read the full story on bhekisisa.org

Take a listen to the discussion on The John Maytham Show:


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