22 Aug 2012

Tobacco firm launches campaign against plain packs

10:39 pm on 22 August 2012

British American Tobacco has launched a costly advertising campaign in New Zealand to stop the introduction of plain-packaging laws covering the sale and marketing of cigarettes.

The Australian government recently won a High Court battle against major tobacco companies, clearing the way for plain packaging to become law there.

The New Zealand Government has agreed in principle to introduce plain packaging and is consulting with companies and members of the public.

But British American Tobacco says if the laws are introduced, they will result in a number of unintended consequences including increasing the black market.

The company has bought advertisements in media throughout the country and will lobby MPs in a campaign costing of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says British American Tobacco is wasting its money trying to stop legislation being introduced, but it can take whatever action it wants to and the Government will make sure it does not breach tobacco promotion legislation.

Lobby group Action on Smoking and Health says the company is picking a major fight with Mr Ryall.

ASH director Ben Youdan says British American Tobacco no longer has the ears of politicians.

"The old relationship of a tobacco executive smoking a cigar in a club with an MP is long gone. And they're actually now having to come out and front up on the battlefield about this."

Mr Youdan says the Health Minister is keen to see plain packets introduced.