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Lots of smoke when tobacco is involved

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It took just two days into the election campaign for the issue of who takes money from Big Tobacco to come to the fore.

Ever since the Labor Party formally decided to knock back donations from tobacco companies, it has taken to goading the Coalition during every election campaign about its reluctance to follow suit.

This election the issue has carried an extra tinge of frisson because of the furore that has engulfed British Prime Minister David Cameron over his decision to dump tobacco plain packaging legislation.

The backflip has given the British Opposition all the opportunity it needs to cast doubt on the integrity of Mr Cameron and the Conservative Party, noting that key political adviser Lynton Crosby has one of the major tobacco companies as a client.

The story was given extra legs after former AMA President Dr Bill Glasson, who is a running as a Liberal candidate against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his Queensland seat of Griffith, went much further on the issue than party leader Tony Abbott.

Dr Glasson said on ABC radio that – if elected – he would lobby the Liberal Party to reject tobacco company donations.

“If I was in the party room – and I hope to be successful – then I will be lobbying against it,” Dr Glasson said.

So far, Mr Abbott has rejected suggestions that the Liberal Party should follow Labor’s lead on the issue.

Labor didn’t have it all its own way on the issue.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was challenged at a media conference over revelations that, while a backbencher, he had some of his travel paid for by a German foundation that is funded by a global cigarette vending machine company.

Adrian Rollins