Ministers have criticized a campaign sponsored by British American Tobacco New Zealand against the plain packaging of cigarettes, saying that it is a waste of money and a diversion from the damage that smoking causes.
On Tuesday the tobaсco company started a print and mass media campaign that costed hundreds of thousands of dollars in reply to the Government’s measure to remove all branding from cigarette packaging to make them less appealing to smoking people.
The tobacco giant said that legislation being the same as those implemented in Australia violated on intellectual property rights would cause a larger black market, and would make cigarette firms to reduce their prices on tobacco products in competition for smokers. It has removed full page advertisements in newspapers which say: “If I create it, I should own it.”
Tony Ryall, Health Minister, said British American Tobacco New Zealand was throwing away money on the campaign.
The Ministry of Health supposed that New Zealanders set themselves against cigarette giants and their marketing strategies. “The citizens of New Zealand have gone along from being influenced in this way.
Tony Ryall has taken away a consultation paper on cigarette plain packaging and supposes to apprise on the data on October. Generally the Government has accepted to maintain the policy change.
Steve Rush, BATNZ’s general manager, said that plain packaging established a “disturbing precedent” for other industries, adding that the British Government was considering a similar proposal for alcohol.
He said New Zealand should not “blindly follow Australia’s lead” with policy he said was unproven in helping to curb smoking.
Asked about BATNZ’s allegation that there was no proof plain packaging would reduce harm from smoking, Mr Ryall said: “There is no evidence specifically, but there is plenty of evidence that packaging works. And if it didn’t work, then why are they complaining?”
The expensive campaign foreshadows the likely legal battle between the Government and “big tobacco” if plain packaging is introduced.
The Australian Government is being sued by tobacco companies and tobacco-producing countries for its plain-packaging regime. Mr Ryall said if New Zealand faced similar legal challenges, the result would be “very one-way”.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said New Zealand remained committed to plain packaging despite huge pressure from tobacco companies and the threat of legal challenges.
“We’re interested in the health and well-being of families and we’re here to support the families who lose 13 people a day here in New Zealand. That’s a good enough reason to continue our campaign.”