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Greens Await Outcome Of Complaint Against Tobacco

24 June 2002
Greens Await Outcome Of Complaint Against Tobacco Companies

Green MP Sue Kedgley today welcomed the first legal action against New Zealand tobacco companies and said she was awaiting the outcome of her complaint to the Commerce Commission against deceptive and misleading practices by tobacco companies.

Janice Pou of Invercargill, who is dying of lung cancer, is suing two tobacco companies for $330,000 - the first time a case of its kind has been filed in New Zealand.

"We welcome this long overdue action but believe Government also needs to investigate whether tobacco companies have used illegal practices in New Zealand to sell their products and, if they have, to then initiate legal action against them," said Ms Kedgley.

"In May I asked the Commerce Commission to conduct a full investigation into whether New Zealand tobacco companies had systematically breached the Fair Trading Act over many years by deliberately misleading New Zealanders about the addictive and harmful nature of their product."

The Commerce Commission is expected to make a decision on Ms Kedgley's request shortly.

"My complaint alleges that tobacco companies failed to inform the public about many of the health risks of smoking, or to provide information about the medically proven risks of exposure to second-hand smoke and other indirect hazards of smoking."

The Fair Trading Act says it is an offence to engage in misleading conduct in relation to goods, or to mislead the public with respect to the nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, suitability for purpose, of goods.

Ms Kedgley said the evidence from the recent Wellington School of Medicine report into the behavior of tobacco companies in New Zealand indicated that tobacco companies had systematically breached the Act.

"If the Commerce Commission confirms that tobacco companies have breached the Fair Trading Act then I would expect the Commission to prosecute those companies, and for the Government to consider taking legal action against them for the massive costs they have inflicted on this country and its people."

Ms Kedgley said Janice Pou's case was topical, especially given new WHO research which shows that non-smokers who live with smokers have a 20 to 30 per cent increased risk of developing lung cancer.

Sue Kedgley's letter of complaint to the Commerce Commission is available on request


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