19 Aug 2014

Addiction researcher suspected smear tactics

10:28 am on 19 August 2014

One of New Zealand's top addiction researchers is unsurprised at claims the alcohol industry has worked behind the scenes to smear the professional reputations of people trying to tighten alcohol laws.

The book Dirty Politics says lobbyists working on behalf of various big business interests including the alcohol industry, facilitated and paid for attacks on public health advocates.

Professor Doug Sellman.

Professor Doug Sellman. Photo: SUPPLIED / CDHB

In Febuary, National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said alcoholics were stealing hand sanitizer from Waikato Hospital so they could drink the liquid.

On his Whale Oil blog, Cameron Slater called Professor Sellman mad for those comments. The book by Wellington writer Nicky Hager alleges Professor Sellman was targeted by lobbyists and that they wrote critical items about him that were put on the blog under Mr Slater's name.

Professor Sellman, who is also the medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action New Zealand, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he was warned about industry tactics when the lobby group was set up five years ago to try to get alcohol laws tightened up.

"I think we should be debating the issues, not being the target of smear campaigns, but in some ways I think that it strengthens our resolve."

Professor Sellman believes he has been targeted because he has been very outspoken about the alcohol industry.

"I've also made public comments about how I think that the government is too close to the alcohol industry - that the alcohol industry has more control over the New Zealand government than most people would like to believe."