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Select Committee Given Strong Opposition to Plain Packaging

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Select Committee Presented with Strong Opposition to Plain Packaging

The Select Committee on tobacco plain packaging heard strong opposition from New Zealand’s largest tobacco company, British American Tobacco New Zealand (BATNZ), when it appeared before the Committee in Auckland today.

Steve Rush, BATNZ General Manager, outlined the reasons that the company opposed the Bill. “It’s clear from what’s occurred in Australia that plain packaging simply won’t work to reduce tobacco consumption but it would unlawfully remove intellectual property, breach NZ’s international trade obligations and severely restrict our ability to compete for existing adult consumers,” said Mr Rush.

“Australia is being challenged by five countries at the WTO and is also facing a separate bi-lateral investment treaty claim. New Zealand cannot, on the one hand ignore its obligations under international trade treaties, while, on the other hand, seek the protection of those same treaties to protect its interests overseas.

“In Australia, plain packaging hasn’t reduced smoking rates or uptake and since it was introduced the long-term decline in industry volumes has halted while illegal tobacco has reached a record high. Seventeen months ago this was a risky experiment. Now it is just failed policy.”

Mr Rush also presented the Committee with less trade restrictive alternatives for the Government to consider, including removing the personal use exemption for homegrown tobacco.

“This is a legal anomaly that allows adults to grow unlimited amounts of tobacco and manufacture the equivalent of around 80 cigarettes a day for personal use. This is an unregulated supply of tobacco which undermines the Government’s health objectives, is clearly open to abuse and should be stopped.

“If the Government is serious about reducing smoking then it should consider alternatives that will work such as removing the personal use exemption for homegrown tobacco and making it an offence to supply tobacco to a minor. This would be effective rather than plain packaging which would be a symbolic measure, but one that would ultimately have damaging, unintended consequences for New Zealand businesses and trade” said Mr Rush.

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