8 Jun 2012

Plain packaging wil help black market - tobacco company

6:31 pm on 8 June 2012

Imperial Tobacco says introducing plain packaging on cigarettes will make it much easier for criminals to introduce black market cigarettes.

The Government has agreed in principle to remove branding from packets, but will consult the public first.

Imperial Tobacco spokesperson Brendan Walker told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Friday that plain packaging is unjustified and unnecessary.

He said the designs will be easily replicated by criminals, who will manufacture cigarettes overseas and then smuggle them into New Zealand.

Mr Walker said Australia experienced an increase in illegal cigarettes after lifting excise taxes and bringing in other regulations, like display bans. Sixty tonnes of tobacco was seized in one consignment.

He said the industry will look at its legal options if the Government tries to introduce plain packaging.

Mr Walker said that enforced plain packaging of cigarettes should be a concern to all businesses.

Branding is crucial to Imperial's business and he said that if it's removed, the (plain packaging) rule may soon apply to other products.

Imperial Tobacco is one of three companies that dominate the cigarette market in New Zealand. It has just expanded its Petone factory.

Its profits rose to $21 million last year, driven by a 16% increase in sales.