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October, 3

Metadata reveals medical charity ATHRA received assistance from PR company linked to vaping campaign

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A doctors’ health promotion charity is unable to explain how metadata linked to a global public relations firm with ties to campaigns funded by tobacco, e-cigarette and vaping interests ended up on its website.

The metadata, which first appeared last April, was in the form of a distinctive username which cropped up on the website of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA).

The username shows who had permission to post content to and manage ATHRA’s website and is associated with at least 10 posts on the site as well as the development of functionality to search for a doctor willing to prescribe nicotine.

The ABC has traced that username to an employee of global public relations firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) in Hong Kong.

The metadata and the content associated with the username was removed after the ABC approached the firm for comment.

At the time the metadata first appeared, BCW was also working with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) on a campaign funded by Philip Morris International (PMI) to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes.

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