An online campaign against anti-smoking measures by tobacco giant Philip Morris has been labelled "disturbing" and simply another avenue to gain publicity.
Anti-smoking campaigner Marewa Glover says the company's latest move is just another tactic.
"This is advertising," she told TV ONE's Close Up.
"They need to find new avenues to get their product before the public and getting prime time television is very valuable airspace," the director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research says.
However Philip Morris says their web-based campaign, My Opinion Counts, was created to encourage smokers to speak out against strict regulation.
Philip Morris, which has the third-largest share of the New Zealand tobacco market, says their campaign has given smokers a voice, an online forum where they can lobby for the right to smoke and be left in peace.
From Monday the Smoke-free Environments (Controls and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2011 comes into effect meaning shops will have to hide their cigarette displays.
The Government is also proposing a series of tax hikes which will mean a pack of cigarettes will cost $20 by 2016. They are also considering plain packaging.
Philip Morris corporate affairs manager Christopher Bishop told Close Up smokers have told the company they want their voices to be heard by the Government and decision makers.
"It's the start of a website where adult smokers can go online and join up and learn about the issues they've told us they are concerned about."
Bishop says smokers believe the "balance and regulation has gone too far" and they want to express their concern.
But Glover says smokers' opinions are heard. "Some smokers do feel picked on...and we go out and survey, question and listen to smokers all the time," she says.
"That's what researchers do...we are really interested in their opinions."
Meanwhile the Green Party is labelling Philip Morris' campaign as "disturbing."
"Philip Morris knows its product kills New Zealanders but is pushing addicts to pressure the Government to drop measures which would make it harder to smoke," Green Party health spokesperson Kevin said in a statement today.
"Today's revelation that Philip Morris has set up a website and
is trying to get smokers to make submissions is disturbing".
Hague says it is immoral for a company that knows its product is lethal to actively urge smokers to soften attempts to save lives.
"Around 5000 New Zealanders die every year due to smoking and second-hand smoke and half of long-term smokers die of a related illness.
"Tobacco companies spend enough money on lobbying without stooping to try and enlist the people they are killing."